AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) —- Unlike human trafficking, cybersex victims can be abused in any location with an internet connection. Organizations including I’m Aware and GLM 2 Foundation are having hard conversations with parents to help them protect their kids from cybercrime.
“Predators are getting smart, and they are learning how to get in touch with these kids via these platforms,” said I’m Aware co-founder Elizabeth Szoka. “Most adults who don’t utilize them probably don’t understand how they work.”
Cyber trafficking is a live-streaming sexual exploitation of children viewed over the internet. The average age of trafficking victims is 16-years-old, but advocates are warning parents that it can happen at any age.
“They’ll say things like let’s have a play date,” said GLM 2 Founder Kimberly Walden. “Well, if you have a four or five-year-old, a play date is not a vocabulary word for them. Let’s go outside and play, sure.”
Trafficking is the second-biggest criminal activity after drugs. The founder of GLM2 says cybersex trafficking is not a big city issue. It can happen any time, anywhere. She says warning signs to look for are kids spending more time on their devices, rather than with other people, and changes in their behavior.
“The frontal lobe is not developed yet,” explained Walden. “That doesn’t develop until you’re 23 or 25. A predator knows that, and they go after kids on purpose.”
Technology is evolving every day, and criminals are finding new ways to prey on kids. Richmond County Investigator, Terry Gore, says he works these types of cases regularly.
“It’s 30 a month, every month at a minimum,” said Gore. “We are letting parents know that adults are targeting children.”
Investigator Gore says this is an issue that will continue to grow unless the community is aware of the problem.
“My survivors are an actual renewable commodity; that’s how these traffickers think of them,” said Gore. “They are not people, they are a renewable commodity, and they can keep using again to make money off them.”
I’m Aware, GLM2, and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office are urging parents to be in the know of what your kids are doing when they are online. Cybercrime can happen on popular apps like Fortnite and Tik Tok.