Ultimate Guide To Child Sex Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Sextortion, & Online Enticement

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Ultimate Guide To Child Sex Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Sextortion, & Online Enticement

What is Child Sex Trafficking?

Sex trafficking is a type of human trafficking and is a form of modern day slavery. Human trafficking occurs when a trafficker exploits an individual with force, fraud, or coercion to make them perform commercial sex or work.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What is Online Enticement?

Online Enticement involves an individual communicating with someone believed to be a child via the internet with the intent to commit a sexual offense or abduction.

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

What is Sextortion?

A crime that happens online when an adult convinces a person who is younger than 18 to share sexual pictures or perform sexual acts on a webcam. Sextortion can start on any site where people meet and communicate.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

FBI Warns That Sextortion Cases Are Increasing by ABCNews.com

Who is at Risk?

People who do not believe that their children could ever become victimized online are living in an unrealistic world.  Regardless of if your child makes 'As' [in school] or not, that child has the potential to become victimized through online technologies.  I think it is very important for parents of all socioeconomic status and with all different roles in society to take this problem very seriously.

Melissa Morrow, Supervisory Special Agent, Child Exploitation Squad, FBI

Location of potential human trafficking cases in the US based on contacts made to the U.S. National Human Trafficking Hotline in 2019 by PolarisProject.org:

Polaris Project 2019 sex trafficking heat map

Source: PolarisProject.org

High Risk Factors/Vulnerabilities for Trafficking Victims, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services:

  • Poverty, economic strain, or unemployment
  • Gender inequality
  • History of sexual abuse or neglect
  • Health/mental health issues
  • Substance abuse or experimentation
  • Unstable family conditions
  • Live in high crime areas
  • Low self-esteem
  • Runaways
USA Today on trafficking victims

"Perpetrators of sex trafficking often target victims who are poor, lack support networks and are living on the margins of society, experts say. They especially target children with a history of abuse and neglect."

- USA Today

How Pornography Impacts Child Sex Crimes

How COVID Changed Pornography Viewership In Teens and Why Images of Child Sexual Abuse Have Increased in Production and Consumption During the Pandemic:

Hotline Reports up during COVID
The U.S.-based nonprofit the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) said it had recorded a 106% increase in CyberTipline reports of suspected child sexual exploitation—rising from 983,734 reports in March 2019 to 2,027,520 in the same month [of 2020].


Sex Trafficking Statistics

  • 15 is the average age of reported child sex trafficking victims
  • One in six endangered runaways, reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2019, were likely victims of child sex trafficking
  • Child sextortion victims range from 8 to 17 years-old
  • 82% of people enticing children online are males
  • The CyberTipline received 16.9 million reports in 2019 of child cyber abuse (sexual abuse images, online enticement, sextortion, child sex trafficking, etc.)
  • Child sex trafficking has been reported in all 50 states
  • The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children responded to more than 10,700 reports regarding possible child sex trafficking in 2019
Center for Cyber Safety and Education

The 2019 Children's Internet Usage Study by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education found 40% of kids in grades 4-8 reported they connected or chatted online with a stranger. Of those 40%:

  • 53% revealed their phone number to a stranger
  • 21% spoke by phone with a stranger
  • 15% tried to meet with a stranger
  • 11% met a stranger in their own home, the stranger’s home, a park, mall or restaurant
  • 30% texted a stranger from their phone
  • 6% revealed their home address to a stranger

Where Criminals Target Children Online

  • Social Media
  • Chatrooms and Online Forums
  • Chat and Messaging Apps
  • Online Job Ads
  • Dating Websites and Dating Apps
  • Porn Websites
  • Multiplayer Online Games

Watch How Predators and Sex Traffickers Target Children Online (with Erin Williamson at Love146.org):

Just because you don’t live in an urban area where you see exploitation happening does not mean that your child, sitting alone with their computer or their phone, in their bedroom, is not being exploited.

Erin Williamson, US Programs Director at Love146.org

Love146 is an international human rights organization working to end child trafficking and exploitation through survivor care and prevention.

Sex Trafficking on Video Games by Tampa Bay Times
'Anywhere where people have access to the internet and access to kids, some people are going to try to use it as a tool to lure kids out,' said FBI Special Agent Kevin Kaufman of Orlando. 'You're pretty much inviting the world into your living room with these online gaming apps.'

Tampa Bay Times

Psychology Today on Social Media and Trafficking
Traffickers often identify vulnerable young people through their social media presence. For example, posts that may suggest low self-esteem, problems at home, or loneliness can signal to a trafficker that a person may be easily victimized. Recruiting victims online is generally much less risky than recruiting victims in person.

Psychology Today

How Criminals Groom and Lure Children Online

What Is Grooming?

Online grooming is a process in which a predator uses seemingly casual or innocent information with the goal of establishing a relationship to gain a child’s trust. It may start with something as simple as a popular music group, sports team, or clothing trend.

Internet Safety 101

How to start a digital dialog with teens and tweens

Carrie Pasquarello, CEO & Co-Founder, Global Secure Resources Inc.

Carrie Pasquarello
Carrie Pasquarello

I always suggest starting a proactive communication plan early in life when our children are young. Setting time each day to teach communication skills will improve relationships also incorporate empathy skills and exercises. But don’t worry if you are already at a stage where you feel every conversation is a challenge with your teen. It is not easy raising teens today. The good news is we have tips for developing a positive communication plan with those tough to reach kids. Start by asking open-ended questions. This technique allows your teen to answer you with more than a yes or no to your question.

An example would be "What was your favorite part of your day?” instead of How was your day? Where they could answer with one word “Fine” or Good.  You want to spend some time developing your question-asking skills. Once the positive communication plan is in place, you can start an open conversation about digital dangers.

How to protect children from predators who might try to groom them on popular online games?

One of the techniques I use when teaching children about online safety is to teach risk mitigation. We first need to know the risk to avoid the risk. I share information about ongoing sting operations that involve the FBI’s IC3 and Project Safe Childhood. We go over how criminals and predators use risk mitigation techniques too so that they won’t get caught. We go over techniques criminals use to fool and fake victims. We highlight the importance to improve students' instincts and intuition. We want children involved in creating a proactive preparedness plan.

How to close the SAFETY GAP:

We begin by incorporating 5 strategies:

· Communication Plan

· Awareness

· Values & Boundaries

· Red flags

· Intuition

Next, after the communication piece is in place, we help parents address:

· Inappropriate content

· Bullying

· Criminals

· Predators – who they are and how we can detect their presence

· Force, Fraud, and coercion

5 RED FLAGS: If someone asks the following questions, a red flag should go up. If you feel something is wrong, it probably is. That is your intuition.

· Are you alone?

· I will hurt your family if you don’t…

· You are so mature.

· Your parents don’t know you as I do.

· Don’t tell anyone.


· Something is weird or something doesn’t feel right about this situation. There is no concrete evidence just a feeling.

When you have red flags or intuition, we want students to speak up and talk with a parent.

Watch this FBI Video on How Predators Groom and Lure Young Victims Online

Cyber Safety on YouTube from the FBI

Tactics offenders use to exploit children online, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:

  • Engaging in sexual conversation/role playing as a grooming method, rather than a goal
  • Asking the child for sexually explicit images of themselves or mutually sharing images
  • Developing a rapport through compliments, discussing shared interests or “liking” their online post
  • Sending or offering sexually explicit images of themselves
  • Pretending to be younger
  • Offering an incentive such as a gift card, alcohol, drugs, lodging, transportation or food

Dangerous Online Terminology All Parents Should Know

SmartSocial.com's List of Teen Slang, Emojis, & Hashtags Parents Need to Know

SmartSocial.com's Ultimate List of Teen Slang, Emojis, & Hashtags
30 Internet Acronyms

Source: Child Rescue Coalition

Warning Signs To Look For

This list of sex trafficking warning signs was created for parents and guardians by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:

Sex Trafficking Warning Signs by NCMEC

Source: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Warning Signs Your Child May Be In Contact With An Online Predator, according to Internet Safety 101:

  • Becomes secretive about online activities
  • Becomes obsessive about being online
  • Gets angry when he or she can’t get online
  • Receives phone calls from people you do not know or makes calls to numbers that you do not recognize
  • Receives gifts, mail, or packages from someone you do not know
  • Withdraws from family or friends
  • Changes screens or turns off computer when an adult enters the room
  • Begins downloading pornography online

What Can Parents Do?

3 Tips to Protect Children Online with Retired Police Lt. Joe Laramie

Talk with your children about online safety:

  • Teach them the difference between appropriate and inappropriate content
  • Be specific about what is off-limits
  • Set a rule that they can only be online "friends" with people they know in real life
  • Talk about the dangers of oversharing and keeping personal details (address, location, birthday, etc) private
  • Remind them their online actions can have consequences
  • Have everyone in your family abide by the guidelines you set in a Family Social Media Agreement
  • Tell your kids they can always come to you or a trusted adult if they ever experience anything inappropriate or troubling online

Be on all the same apps your students are using:

Top 100 Good and Bad social media apps guide
  • Download each app your student wants to use or is already using
  • See for yourself what kind of content is shared on each app
  • Follow or connect with your student on each app and decide if it's appropriate for your family
  • Familiarize yourself with the safety/privacy settings available on each app
  • Consider using a reputable Parental Control Software, but don't solely rely on it to keep your kids safe online. You are their best defense

How to Get Help

missing image
Report It

If you think you have seen a missing child, or suspect a child may be sexually exploited, contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

Report Child sexual exploitation

Use the CyberTipline to report child sexual exploitation

Make a Cyberlink Report>>

These help lines are available 24/7:

  • National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: 1 (800) THE-LOST (843-5678)
  • National Human Trafficking Hotline: 1 (888) 373-7888
  • National Child Abuse Hotline: (800) 4-A-CHILD (2-24453)
  • National Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 656-HOPE (4673)

Victims Share Their Stories

A victim of sextortion speaks out to help others avoid being victimized:

source: FBI

A mother shares how her 17 year-old daughter, a college student at Northeastern University, became a child sex trafficking victim:

source: UNICEF USA

A woman shares the terrifying story of how she ran away from home, at the age of 13, to meet a man she met online:

source: Enough is Enough

Two George Mason University students explain how they fell victim to sextortion:

Source: ABC News

Additional Resources for Parents, Students, and Educators

Read More From Smart Social:

Read More Posts On Our Blog
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