Oh hey, welcome! Wow, there are a lot of you here. Wait, this definitely needs to go on Snapchat. Here, let me grab my phone really quick. Can you guys pose for me? Come a little closer together. AHH! We look so good! Thank you, thank you! You guys make me look so popular!

What was I going to talk about? …

Oh yeah, sex trafficking and social media. Well, this is going to get dark, so make sure you have a lot of lights on right now. Let’s start with the statistics. We all know what the biggest criminal industry in the world is right? Drugs. Of course. Who doesn’t want drugs? But do we all know what the second largest criminal industry is? I see a few hands. If you were going to say commercial sex, then you would be correct. In the world today, there are 20.9 million individuals who are bought and sold into sex. You may be thinking, so what? That’s not me, I’m only this age. Did you know that 2 million children are exploited every year? Yikes, am I right?

2 million is such a big number, and our smalls worlds where butterflies roam free, the sunshine warms your skin, and the colorful flowers that bloom cover your world in a hazy scented dream, seem too impenetrable to something so far left field. It’s crazy to think, but sex trafficking lurks closer than the end of your block at three in the morning. Or that dark alley behind your best friend’s house where nothing good seems to happen. Sex traffickers used to be limited to that, but now their best friend is your best friend; social media.

In a compilation of 2017 social media statistics, Smart Insights tell us that Facebook alone has 1,871 million active users in a day. Now imagine all the social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. A sex trafficker can contact thousands of targets in one day and they only need one of them to be tricked into the trade to make thousands of dollars. If this still seems bigger than your world, let me make it a little smaller. The 2016 Dirty Dozen list informs us that 71% of Snapchat users are under 34 years old. Makes sense, right? Since all your friends, your sister and her friends, your brother and his friends all have it. 41% of all Americans between the ages 13 and 17 use Snapchat. What kind of targets are sex traffickers looking for? Teens between the ages 12 and 18 who may be easy to trick into thinking the pimps have good intentions. That small rectangular device in your back pocket is feeling a little heavy right now isn’t it?

Now you might be thinking, I’m too smart for that. They’d never be able to trick me; I’d spot it a hundred miles away. Are you having family issues? Does your boyfriend promise he’ll give you the world? Maybe it’s not you. Maybe your best friend has a problem with depression and feeling loved. Sex traffickers target children and teens with issues because they’re easier to control psychologically. My boyfriend isn’t a sex trafficker, you say. My best friend would never get caught up in any of that.

There was a dad in Texas who had an 18-year-old daughter. She met her sex trafficker at a party before she disappeared, but the scary part was that she was groomed two years before she was kidnapped. Groomed by her high school friend. Kids are usually recruited by other kids of the same sex. It’s happened before, it can happen again; pimps can be anybody; recruiters can be anybody.

The dad started hunting his daughter down to save her from her fate, and in his investigation he found that Snapchat was the weapon traffickers used against his daughter. As an app where messages and pictures self destruct over time, Snapchat is the ideal platform for a pimp to contact girls. Not only that, but in 2015 Snapchat created a way for users to pay each other through the app with something called Snapcash. Sound familiar? Doesn’t it also now sound…convenient for what sex traffickers are trying to do? Snapcash turned Snapchat’s revenue from $3 million to $50 million in the span of a year. It also made the 2017 Dirty Dozen. How many teens you know are making enough money to share through snapchat? I don’t think Snapcash was targeted for teens, it was targeted for adults. And if the majority of Snapchat users are between the ages of 13 and 17, then who is transferring all this money through snapchat?

Disturbed? You should be. Social media was made for social interaction between family and friends. Social media is used for catalogs of potential sex victims, as well as buying and selling them.

This is crazy, right? I totally understand. I know I’ve just thrown a lot of information at you in one blow, but this is heavy, serious stuff that’s integrated into something as carefree as Instagram and Snapchat. You probably feel a little betrayed; not Instagram! It can’t be! There is always so many interesting things on it! You’re on it, I’m on it, we’re all on it!

However, we have to be aware of the signs. I know you all love social media, but it’s the new dark alley at night, and I’m sorry, you are all over it.

I’m just saying!

By Emma Bonack

 

Works Cited

Briquelet, Kate. “Dad Saves Daughter From Snapchat Sex Traffickers.” The Daily
Beast. The Daily Beast Company, 10 Oct. 2016. Web. 08 Aug. 2017.

Chaffey, Dave. “Global Social Media Statistics Summary 2017.” Smart Insights. N.p., 17
May 2017. Web. 08 Aug. 2017.

Neumann, Irene. “SNAPCHAT SNAPCASH: A Powerful Combination Ripe for
Sexploitation.” National Center on Sexual Exploitation.
Endsexualexploitation.org, 25 May 2016. Web. 08 Aug. 2017.

Yoder, Brenda, LMHC. “The Truth About Teens, Sex Trafficking and Social Media.” The
Whatever Girls. N.p., 27 July 2016. Web. 08 Aug. 2017.