The internet and social media have changed the way sex traffickers operate. I know what you’re thinking. “It would never happen to me, I’m really careful”. Think about this for a second. What’s stopping a predator from using photos of a young girl your age to create a fake profile and try to connect with all of the students at a local school. And, since girls tend to post about everything going on in their lives, the predator just has to be patient and wait for the perfect post from a tween/teen girl that reveals sadness, depression, loneliness or the struggles of having a bad day. Then, the predator will attempt to reach out, become a friend and begin the grooming process. Yes, it’s that easy and girls fall victim to fake profiles lurking in their personal business more often than you might think.
Every post, comment, like and follow affects your communication with others online. By sharing personal information, consider your posts an advertisement for anyone to see. Your digital footprint can put your job or college application in the trash faster than you can text your BFF. Today, you might not be worried about college or job acceptance and depending on your age, this may seem a little dramatic and futuristic but know that everything you put online is there to stay. Do overs don’t count BUT you can stay safe & maintain a positive online footprint with a few easy habits.
- As I travel and speak, We often talk about Instagram and the popular trend of long list Insta bios. The social trend to list your school, sports, hobbies, BFF’s, neighborhood and grade level are exactly what predators are looking for. Think about it…that’s a LOT of info when anyone can visit your account & check out who you are. Let’s end the lost list bios and keep your private info just for your BFF’s eyes only. Changing your Insta bio might not be a popular choice, but you could help create a new trend of short bios without personal information. That would be pretty awesome. Go ahead, try it!
- Keep your account private!! I know your photos are amazing, but keep it for your real friends and family. They are the ones that matter the most!
- In settings, ensure you’ve checked new follow requests to be accepted only with permission. Only accept followers you personally know. If someone asks to follow and you seem to have mutual friends, ask a friend if they personally know them. I do this all the time…it’s not lame, it’s smart!
- Do not participate or ask to be rated. You don’t need to be rated, you’re already awesome. Confident girls who know their self-worth never need anyone else to validate who they are. Ratings are just another way to spread hate, bullying and drama. Who needs the extra stress, just be kind when you comment on friends pics as you support each other online and most importantly, offline and in person.
- Turn off geo-tagging and never share locations when you post! Scenario: You’re at the mall with your friends and you stop at Starbucks and decide to post a pic. I know it might be hard but wait until you get home to share the epic pics, but this way, no one can determine your location. Predators are masters at locating girls based on their location because they felt the need to post that “in the moment” pic. Almost all of my pics are posted after I was actually there. Keep it safe…everyone will still love seeing your fun moment after the fact.
In case you didn’t know, Texas is one of the top states in the U.S. for Human Trafficking. When I learned of this I was shocked and had no idea just how dangerous and vulnerable we as girls are while we are online. Unfortunately, I have experienced being approached by an online predator with the intent to traffic. The police were involved and my ordeal has inspired me to educate and empower girls to be safe online. I was lucky and did not become a victim. With this in mind, I decided to take my mentorship to young girls and extend it beyond my normal GIRL TALK empowerment. I partnered with JOUZGE & created “Project Warrior”. Project Warrior gives empowerment & inspiration to girls who have been rescued from human trafficking. Each canvas bag is a hand painted, one-of-a-kind bag with a powerful quote on the outside and an inspirational personal message on the inside reminding girls they are a worthy warrior and most importantly a survivor who can make positive change for not only themselves but for others. When girls are rescued they often have no belongings other than the clothing they are wearing. The Project Warrior bag signifies possibility and a first step in collecting items of their own, no longer bound by the chains of human traffickers. Girls Above Society and JOUZGE have set a secondary goal of introducing GIRL TALK into housing facilities to enrich girls as they recover. Our long term goal is to award education scholarships, giving girls the tools needed to live a successful future, never re-living the life as a trafficked girl again. If you want to learn more visit Girls Above Society but be prepared, you’re about to be very inspired!
We all love Instagram, but don’t let this popular app consume you! The best way to share those lasting moments are to really be in the moment as we create lasting memories with our friends. Remember, those last way longer than the 1.5 seconds others spend peeking at your post as they scroll on Insta!