‘Trapped’ presentation illustrates online dangers and reality of human trafficking

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Pictured above, students from the live-panel discussion are seen answering questions from the audience after sharing their firsthand accounts of bullying.

RACHEL TOWNSEND

rtownsend@stategazette.com

A presentation and panel discussion were held Wednesday in an effort to elaborate on the dangers surrounding bullying/cyber bullying, the dangers of the dark web and how the Internet is used for human trafficking.

Entitled, ‘Trapped-Dangers Lurking in the Digital World’, the 2 1/2-hour presentation provided those in attendance with firsthand accounts of human trafficking incidents from Chris Carpenter of TBI and Aaron Thompson of Homeland Security in addition to heartfelt student testimonials of bullying and its echoed effect on their lives.

Hosted at the Lannom Center, the event opened with the live-panel student discussion, where parents, members of school faculty, and others listened to testimonials surrounding the hard facts of bullying and the detriment caused by student cliques targeting, who sometimes target fellow students coming from low-income families. Illustrated by another student were incidents of bullying in which students were alienated from social media forums.

From being bullied to becoming the bully, the cycle of verbal, emotional, and sometimes-physical abuse is in some instances perpetuated as victimized students lash out against their abuser. This was the story of at least two students on the panel, who have spent numerous years subjected to school bullying.

And while each of the students were able to overcome their own personal struggle, Thompson says this just isn’t always the case, as some children end up taking their own lives in order to escape victimization. These dire situations urge parents and teachers to take more proactive measures when addressing and preventing bullying in homes and schools.

Closing the live-panel discussion, teachers asked students to consider ways in which the student body could help them to find ways in which to tackle current bullying issues.

Opening the second half of the presentation, Carpenter and Thompson discussed the presence of human trafficking and online predators throughout the state of Tennessee, including reports of child trafficking, which occurred right here in Dyer County.

According to Carpenter, roughly 1,000 children are trafficked through the state each year, with most children taken from rural areas. The average age of children trafficked is 13 years old.

Traffickers oftentimes find their victims through: clubs/bars, Internet, streets, shopping area, foster care, advertisements, schools and social media.

TBI research has shown that 82-percent of predators target children through social media networking, recruiting children with promises of love, protection, adventure, money and stability.

Thompson says many predators will even attempt to reach out to children through online gaming forums. After building trust, they may then advise the child to download social media apps in an effort to lure them into meeting or sending photographs.

TBI and Homeland Security encourage parents to prevent the chance of their child being targeted by predators by observing the following:

• Be a parent, not a friend

• Be active in your child’s life

• Protect your child from being alone at events/travel

• Check emails/texts/ snaps/technology

• Screen relationships/friends

• Know where they are (Tracker apps)

• Consider code words or text symbols

• Have set check-in times

• Discuss party rules

• Talk to your child about relationships

• Teach your child warning signs

• Call the police

• Set up online privacy settings

• Install filtering/monitoring software

• Look at individual phone apps

• Explore built-in security features

• Help your child create a strong online password

This event is in cooperation with Dyersburg and Dyer County Coordinated School Health, Life Choices of Dyersburg, Dyer County Health Department, Dyer County Health Alliance, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Homeland Security.

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