Last week, my column was about human trafficking. As I came into work on Monday, one of my co-workers had printed out a press release from the U. S. Attorney's Office in Martinsburg.
Yes, I know that Martinsburg is a large town and is a bedroom community for Washington D.C. But, the press release was about a man who has a Maryland and Florida address who was luring young girls on the internet to send him pornographic pictures of themselves.
This is one way human trafficking begins.
This 24-year-old man had talked to a 13-year-old West Virginia girl on an app called “Live Me” and groomed her until she sent him inappropriate pictures of herself. No one knows how far this would have gone if police officials had not intervened.
Maybe he only wanted pictures. Maybe he wanted to continue talking until that child ended up sneaking away from home to join her “love.”
These are scary times we are living in.
Live Me, Snapchat and many other phone apps are becoming a way to meet young people, boys and girls alike, and either get them to send inappropriate pictures or get them to meet them. The adults usually provide the bus or plane ticket and then your child is in the hands of a predator. In a town that is not your own. Alone. And scared.
This isn't just happening to children. Teens and adults are being lured into these activities also. Everyone always thinks the grass is greener on the other side. But, sometimes that grass is extremely dangerous.
Many, many parents give their young children cell phones for emergencies. It makes sense for children to have a phone available to be able to contact parents when needed.
Kids are smart. They are especially smart when it comes to technology. If they have their own phone, parents need to be diligent in monitoring the apps they download and how they are being used. Once that Snapchat photo is sent, it's gone and Snapchat has been very uncooperative in helping police recover photos needed in criminal investigations. So far, not one court in the nation has been able to force Snapchat to release photos that were sent, but not screen shot.
Chat rooms are a fun place for teens to visit to meet people from all over the world. The sad thing is, predators know that too. There are sick people everywhere. Literally. Some just want child pornography, some plan to lure your child or teenager to a far away place and sell them into the sex trade.
It's a scary world out there.
The press release I received, just after I wrote the initial column on this subject, said that the man received a ten year sentence. If he behaves while in prison, he will serve 7 and 1/2 years.
You can not talk to your children enough about this subject. Honestly, they may roll their eyes, but the hope is that when confronted in life or on the internet, they will remember what you said and know that you are right. Hopefully, your child will come to you and you can report this person to authorities.
It's real. It's important. Be vigilant.