Minors at risk of cyber trafficking
On average, minors start using the Internet before they turn 6, and every third child is exposed to some kind of disturbing content. Social media and online gaming platforms nowadays became an open space for traffickers to lurk on children, taking the advantage of their innocence, imagination, lack of adult supervision, and abusing their trust, while keeping the traffickers anonymous. Besides that, organised criminal groups are engaged on the Internet operating at a transnational level.
The socio‐economic background of victims is various in different forms of cyber trafficking. In trafficking for sex child pornography, there are children of all backgrounds. From street‐children who never use the Internet or children who are kidnapped and then their photos are uploaded to Internet sites, to children who are strongly placed in a family environment, but who are lured through chat‐rooms. Some young girls seek work abroad and they are lured through fraudulent ads or social networking sites.
There have been significant increases in activity relating to child sexual abuse and exploitation on both the surface web and dark web during the COVID-19 lockdown period. In the current circumstances, sex offenders have an opportunity to access and interact with a broader group of potential victims, in particular among children, through social media, online games etc.
In MARRI participants, as in most parts of the world, parents and guardians are struggling with the ability to supervise children’s growing use of mobile phones and the Internet, but they need to understand and be aware that their engagement and education on using social media applications is also of vital importance for the safety of their children.
Raising awareness and increasing knowledge on the cyber trafficking is essential to protect children at risk, and warn their parents and families of the present dangers, having in mind that a huge part of people’s daily routine and habits nowadays are related to the online sphere.
Prevention is key to fighting against cyber trafficking, which involves the need to amend the current legislation, introduce specialised capacity development programmes and impose strict sanctions against perpetrators.
In the framework of a specific toolbox/concept developed for creating awareness raising campaigns about trafficking in human beings, we have enabled a cross choice among different target groups and campaign objectives for these groups, with a short advice on the best selection of tools for the chosen campaign type.
Choosing a target group means focusing on people interested in /sensitive to a certain topic and issues that need to be addressed in the communication. Target groups in the awareness raising campaigns may include: general public, vulnerable groups (e.g. women, children, migrants etc.), media, civil society organisations, decision makers, etc.
The awareness about a selected topic is raised for one or several objectives, which differ in regard to the selected target groups. These objectives may comprise: to inform people / raise awareness on a certain topic, educate on modalities of prevention among vulnerable groups and other target groups, induce change in behaviour among key target groups, start a public discussion, or influence relevant policy /regulatory changes referring to a selected issue, etc.
Once you have identified your target groups and objectives of the campaign, you need to select the right communication channels and tools to ensure continuous flow of information in your campaign. Tools relevant for a specific topic within the awareness raising campaign may range to include: PR (press release, interview, feature story, guest appearance, press conference etc.), TVC /radio, digital and social media, film and video, promotional /informative materials, public debates, workshops, public events, out of home advertising, position papers, etc.
- The best way to reach minors and children at risk of cyber trafficking is to get in touch with them at risk place – internet sites and social media.
- You can also endorse celebrities or Tik Tok influencers, as they are popular among children.
- The content of digital materials with clear messages can be in a form of photos, videos, animations, comics, etc.
- Distributing comic books in hard copy at schools is a very good tool for this age group.
- Children on social media follow different influencers and believe them, so the influencers can be perfect messengers that warn minors of what could happen if they are communicating with unknown people on the web.
- Ads in video games, which are widely popular among children and minors, can draw attention of minors and suggest them to be cautious in chat rooms.
- Role plays in schools and kindergartens can strongly influence minors’ minds and behaviours on the issue of cyber trafficking.
- Short, simple, and clear video or cartoon with real-life cases of children trapped in cyber trafficking can be sponsored on web platforms (Tik Tok, Snapchat), but also played in schools and kindergartens.
- Organise peer to peer educational workshops in schools, to engage children in exchanging experiences, openly addressing their concerns and seeking advice.
- Share testimonials. Use influencers.
- Promote other kind of activities among children, motivating them to socialize more, read, practice sports, by organizing sport days – competitions in schools, using ambassadors in these areas.
- Organise school excursions, events and activities to mark popular occasions and holidays such as New Year, Easter, Halloween etc. when children spend more time with their friends, schoolmates and sports clubs, to watch selected films with positive messages, or indoor theatre performances with children, parents’ & teachers’ participation.
- Include children’s and youth associations, as well as NGOs dealing with youth in public debates and address current challenges illustrated with real-life examples, striving to identify the type of guidance and support requested by children.
- Engage celebrities and social media influencers as endorsers to participate in organizing public events with engaging content for children, such as an offline chat room, to discuss various risks of cyber trafficking for children.
- Engage celebrities and social media influencers in further pursuing social media campaigns linked to such public events.
- Use printed and promotional materials such as brochures, leaflets, and badges to illustrate an informed approach to using Internet and promote more parental supervision. Use ambassadors.
- Educate parents on how to track their children’s activities online.
- Produce materials that advice parents how to celebrate family gatherings/holidays in a proactive way, cooperating with teachers and educators (for example – theatre performances).
- Include parent associations and representatives of the education system in public debates, round tables & expert conferences in order to discuss different approaches to the issue of cyber trafficking, and publish key information gathered regarding minors at risk of cyber trafficking for further dissemination in media.
- Create a policy brief with recommendations for the improvement of current curriculum and raising awareness through informal education.
- Inform and educate in informal meetings associations gathering parents, teachers and children educators on the best global policies in combatting cyber trafficking among minors and ask them to share their experiences and recommendations to develop a policy brief.
- Organise workshops and round tables with the participation of psychologists and educators to define solutions in actively tackling the issue of cyber trafficking before relevant authorities.
- Educate adults on the risks of cyber trafficking, by organising workshops for people working with minors.
- Produce promotional materials for parents such as brochures, leaflets etc. that can attract their attention and make them aware of dangers posed to their children in the cyber space.
- Produce TV materials, cooperating with media in order to educate about risks of THB in the digital world.
- Organize Train the trainer workshop to spread curriculum through educational systems.
- Set up campaigns that encourage educators to openly communicate and advise children on responsible behaviour on the web.
- Create tutorials on social media platforms with advice for parents and teachers on how to spot risky behaviours among children and react adequately.
- Organise workshops or counselling for parents and children workers which gives them information on how to approach children when they notice risky behaviours, but also promoting different social and culture practices in families’ everyday lives.
- Use printed and promotional materials such as brochures, leaflets, and badges to raise awareness among teachers and educators about dangers faced by children on the Internet.
- Educate teachers on how to provide orientation to children in seeking appropriate educational content online.
- Include parent associations and representatives of the education system in public debates, round tables & expert conferences in order to discuss the current curriculum and school practices in order to enhance effective combatting against cyber trafficking, having in mind the fact that online schooling is a growing from of education.
- Create a policy brief with recommendations for the improvement of current curriculum in the formal and informal education.
- Gather associations of teachers and children educators at workshops to inform them on the best global practices in combatting cyber trafficking among minors and ask them to discuss their experiences within local education system, striving to define recommendations for a joint policy brief.
- Organise round tables with the participation of psychologists and relevant authorities to define solutions in addressing the issue of cyber trafficking within the education system.
- By organising public debates, round tables, and expert conferences that include the participation of the NGO sector you can inform NGO workers on this topic, and also get some experiences from the ground.
- Encourage establishments of NGO networks – local, national, regional. Networking among different CSOs will help you broaden your knowledge and case studies discussed can improve development of future ideas and activities.
- Involve them in establishing supporting systems for parents (within their areas of work), that other kind of activities besides on-line entertainment.
- Create with partners Country fact sheet for multiply purposes.
- Raise this topic as part of other socio-economic projects, sharing wider perspective, like absence of family care/time because of parents’ long working hours etc.
- Network with NGOs engaged in different areas with general focus on children to jointly address the issue of cyber trafficking.
- Jointly organize marking a special occasion such as the World Children’s Day where you can present statistics and best global practices.
- Create a brief – or Country fact sheet.
- Use CSOs relations and communication channels with their communities.
- Set public debates & round tables with the participation of experts, media, school personnel and parents to gain diverse, valuable experiences and data, and select relevant data and ideas for the implementation of raising awareness campaigns in a complex field of cyber trafficking from different angles.
- Include parents and teachers’ associations, representatives of NGOs dealing with minors, children and children workers in public debates, round tables & expert conferences in order to discuss the efficiency of peer education and other types of non-formal education in combatting the risks of cyber trafficking among minors.
- Network with other CSOs.
- In cooperation with relevant NGOs, parents & teachers’ associations, influencers and representatives of the IT and gaming industry, set up round tables to discuss current challenges of a growing use of the Internet among minors who are not aware of the fact that the fun of social media use, gaming etc. sometimes goes hand in hand with hidden dangers – align on key topics, formulate demands and recommendations for responsible behaviour of all actors engaged in children education and entertainment practices.
- Create a draft position paper for combatting cyber trafficking of children and minors within the framework of cooperation among public authorities, businesses and CSO sector.
- Use traditional media tools, such as press conferences, press releases, interviews, feature stories, guest appearances etc. to provide continuous presence in media.
- Use storytelling concept.
- Use relevant source studies and reports data.
- Show contexts and causes of the problem of cyber trafficking like poverty, easy access, negligence, social and cultural practices, unemployment rate, etc, but also offer solutions.
- Social media campaigns can reach the general public and youngsters in particular.
- Promotional materials (brochures, leaflets, flyers, badges) are an appropriate tool as well.
- Participation of celebrities & influencers in the awareness raising campaign can help reaching out to more people and enhancing emotional involvement in the topic. Be sure person is presented in a positive way and with a clear message.
- Besides PR tools, such as press releases and press conferences, use printed material (brochures and leaflets) as an educational tool and place them in public spaces such as post offices, shopping malls, health care centres etc.
- Use the engagement of celebrities to spread the message about what risky behaviour is and how to prevent it.
- Illustrative billboards or posters in buses at bus stations can be useful to inform the general public of the risks of cyber trafficking for minors.
- Organize with potential partners street or on-line events, promoting them also through media and social platforms.
- Use social media ads & posts on popular platforms (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat) presenting simple dos and don’ts for children using the Internet. With press releases, interviews, guest tv/radio appearances you can disseminate statistics data and expert opinions relevant for cyber trafficking that provide a wider perspective into prevention.
- Spread call to action messages.
- If this is a viable option, TVC/Radio ads and out-of-home advertising (public transport stickers, park benches, city lights) with effective slogans and visuals will spread the campaign message to the public.
- Use storytelling and influence through emotional identification, move people to action.
- Organize event/action that promotes positive behaviour, opposite of risk in cyber trafficking.
- Use public relations tools, such as press conferences, press releases, interviews, feature stories and guest appearances to send positive messages about the responsible use of the Internet, and use TVC, radio, digital and social media to provoke more engagement of different segments of the general public.
- Engage celebrities & influencers to share the key messages via their own channels so you can reach out to their audiences.
- Promote the position paper and policy brief among digital and social media, and through the use of public relations, i.e., tools such as press conferences, press releases, interviews, feature stories, guest tv/radio appearances that provoke public attention over a prolonged period of time.
- Organize trainings for media representatives. Share with them testimonials, but also offer them studies and research reports results.
- Offer them context about social, economic and political problems that shape this topic. Root causes should be addressed like e.g. – inadequate regulations and legal enforcement etc.
- If you have newsworthy cause, organize event for media and other target groups.
- Use ambassadors to get media attention.
- Organize media trainings: educate journalist by presenting the context of the problem – show connections of potential readers with the problem, such as poverty leading to long working hours, lack of family time spent, lack of sports, culture behaviour habits etc.
- Offer them stories by using storytelling techniques in your presentations or featured articles.
- Educate media to promote campaign, and communicate positive attitude towards activities opposite to children’s extreme internet usage.
- By offering alarming studies and research data (Country fact sheet) move media towards more proactive approach to the topic of cyber trafficking of minors.
- Share testimonials but offer solutions as well.
- Organize briefings with the participation of experts in the topic.
- Organize round tables and conferences, for the presentation of Country fact sheet/topic brief and invite media.
- Organize trainings with the participation of law experts, academia representatives, offering country data, and the social-economic perspective for the topic.
- Offer international law best practices in fight against cyber trafficking for minors.
- To get relevant ministries and other public bodies in charge of education & information, internal affairs, social welfare, health, involved in the process of raising awareness on the risk of cyber trafficking for minors, gather them to work together in working groups and develop expert opinions relevant for policy documents aiming to induce societal and legislation changes needed in this field.
- Advocacy/lobbying approach: with relevant statistical data, by identifying essence of the problem, gaps in existing legislation, offering potential solutions which lead to reduction of crimes etc.
- Invest in long-term relationships, better as part of a coalition/network of CSOs.
- Organise large-scale conferences, public debates and round tables, and produce position papers to propose solutions for tackling this issue.
- Use PR tools (press conferences, press releases, interviews, feature stories, guest tv/radio appearances) to make these activities known to the general public as well.
- In coordination with experts, teachers, and academia, create a fact sheet with key data on prevention, modalities of abuse and profile of perpetrator, containing statistical data, and present it in direct meetings to local/national governance and responsible state bodies asking for support in further activities.
- Create a win – win situation using presentation of potential decrease of costs for social and health care, judicial system, etc, by increasing prevention potentials in the society.
- Organize/cooperate with different coalitions and lobbying groups with the aim of putting pressure for the adoption of new, modern law regulations for this specific crimes.
- Invite public institution representatives to support public actions and discussions on the topic.
- Create/present policy brief paper and communicate international best practices.
- Include representatives of local and national governments in the process of creating policy brief and policy paper, to obtain their advice on potential challenges in seeking legislative changes that affect cyber trafficking.
- Invite representatives of local and national governments to participate in public debates, round tables & expert conferences that you organise, to discuss with the civil sector representatives and media further modalities of cooperation in combatting cyber trafficking.
- Organise a presentation of defined position papers and policy briefs for relevant ministries and other public bodies in charge of education, security, internal affairs, health and social welfare, and public administration representatives.
- Propose the establishment of the working groups with experts, representatives of NGOs and other stakeholders that would be actively engaged in tackling the issue of cyber trafficking in modern societies, as children nowadays practically “live online” which profoundly affects some of the fundamental social and family values that need to be addressed.
Examples of Good Practice
The section “Best Practice” is intended to show what works best for particular topics or environments in awareness raising campaigns. Descriptions are made according to data available on-line and illustrate specific practices that have proved to be successful in their implementation. Campaigns described in this section were internationally implemented.