What can trafficking look like in NI? Part 2
By Bonnie
July 28, 2021

It isn’t just companies that track your online activity, traffickers do.

Social media matters. As of 2021, there are 3.78 billion social media users. That shows an
increase of 32.2% in 5 years, meaning that the internet has made anyone with a social
media account, particularly children, vulnerable.

Due to advancements in technology, it is now harder to monitor the social media profiles of
your children. The increased want for a social media profile and the various types of
technology and apps available means that the internet is an easy way for predators and
traffickers to profile a target they wish to recruit.

A predator can profile a victim in advance of the grooming process. It is typical for predators
to profile an individual based on how vulnerable they are. In the material world, a predator
or trafficker is likely to commonly groom children in foster care who are more likely to feel
alone and unwanted. Young people going through family trouble, financial instability, or low
self-esteem are easier to groom and manipulate online with predators offering a ‘like’ here,
a comment there, and then eventually establish a false relationship.

While many keep their business off social media, some do not. We have a right to share our
information with our social networks. While it may be great to connect with our friends and
family online, especially as social distancing is commonplace, it is also necessary to be aware
that anybody can create a profile and pick up your information. While monitoring your
children’s social media is an obvious answer in preserving their safety, it is worth making
sure that yours does not make them a target either.

It is important to be aware that putting up pictures of your children and information about
your personal life is creating a potential profile for traffickers. Some may find posting about
their divorce cathartic and it may gain support from followers but it can alert a predator
that your child is feeling vulnerable.

Practicing healthy boundaries online, keeping your profile and personal information limited,
and being wary of sharing too many pictures may help you lead your children by example. It is not just their accounts that can be targeted as predators can also assess the family
situation of the victim.

Awareness is the best prevention. It is hard to estimate exactly how much trafficking is
currently taking place in Northern Ireland. Unfortunately, it is something that we are rarely
aware of. According to a publication by The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission,
there are low rates of disclosure in victims due to lack of knowledge of safe alternatives,
lack of trust of authorities, and a range of other issues. The nature of trafficking makes it
difficult to scale.

Speak to your children about the potential dangers and the warning signs. If something
seems too good to be true, be it attention, a job offer, or an opportunity let them know that
those things don’t suddenly appear in your inbox. Meanwhile, be wary of the privacy
implications of what you post as a parent on social media for your children. You never know
who is watching.