Human Trafficking Awareness Day: human traffickers turn to technology

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Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – Human trafficking is a process rather than a kidnapping. The internet has become a perfect place for traffickers to befriend children and other people looking for human interaction during a pandemic that prohibits just that. First News at Nine’s Maria Blough shares what we need to know to stay safe.

With the help of technology, human trafficking can happen anywhere and cases of it have been reported in all 72 counties in Wisconsin according to the Milwaukee Human Trafficking Task Force.

It’s a crime without boundaries says Cat Jacoby with the Eau Claire based non-profit Fierce Freedom.

“It’s possible in any location in those rural areas because of access to technology, cell phones. A really big thing that people should be aware of because it is Human Trafficking Awareness Day is that nobody is really safe behind a screen,” said Jacoby.

Despite people spending more time at home, the National Human Trafficking Hotline saw a 40 percent increase in calls made to them a month into the pandemic.

Kathy Hatem is with Enough is Enough, a group working to make the internet safe for everyone. She says it’s easier than ever for traffickers right now.

“Kids are spending more time than ever online. They are at home distance learning. They’re using the internet more than ever to socialize and so that alone puts them at greater exposure for coming in an encounter with a trafficker on the internet,” said Hatem.

To help protect children while they are online, experts suggest talking early and often to your children about internet safety.

“Technology is a way of life that children are getting more accustomed to so rather than say no technology at all, that just doesn’t work,” said Jacoby.

First News at Nine, Maria Blough.

Jacoby recommends parents make use of tools like parental monitoring software. She says it’s important to include your kids in the discussion when deciding to use these resources so they know you trust them but may not trust those they could come in contact with when they use technology.

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