The Internet is not the same as it was born in 1982 when it was only used to know more information than what we could have at our fingertips in a book or encyclopedia. Over the years we could know what was happening in real time in other countries, continents and even what was happening to our neighbors.
Today there are hundreds of social networks, millions of websites, and countless people logged in and accessing them.
As the internet evolved, the web 2.0 was born, where users stop just consuming the content that is on the internet to generate it in a unilateral, was being part of it.
This is how we are part of the information in real time with only access to a device with internet.
Unfortunately, “innocent” users who leave their lives on social networks are more likely to fall into the traps of criminals. Because, just as you can spend hours uploading photos of your family, pets and your favorite restaurant, they spend hours searching for valuable information in order to commit heinous acts.
But it is not only a crime such as fraud or extortion, we face those who impersonate other people or a lie from them to attract vulnerability and make trafficking networks with it.
How do social networks impact trafficking networks?
Trafficking networks, eager to generate more profits and capture new victims to exploit, evolved in their modus operandi, creating strategies of manipulation and control over people who, unknowingly, are taken to experiences that no one would want or expect to live.
This is how the now called modern slavery is born.
In social networks it all starts with a like, a message or a comment to the victim. The captors probably already know about her appearance, her character, where she lives, if she has a job, children, sentimental problems… everything is in plain sight in her profile.
Let's keep in mind that recruitment is the most important factor in trafficking networks, and technology not only facilitates it, but also allows it to reach places where it is physically more difficult, and costly, to do so.
The key to this crime is the vulnerability of the victims.
On the Internet, traffickers “actively hunt” with more precision, and “passively fish” with less effort for more potential victims, according to the metaphors of the latest UNO report on the subject. Those who used to stroll through vulnerable neighborhoods in different countries now post job offers on Facebook, Tinder or Instagram in order to obtain sensitive data such as name, age, location, or level of education. Considering the situation of these people, a job for them where they do not need to know anything special, as a waitress or caregiver, is a good opportunity to get ahead.
But there is also sentimental deception. Where the “lover” makes flattery and promises to end up in a romantic relationship. This usually takes the form of a trip to see each other in person, the destination of which has nothing to do with what it seemed to be.
Large committees around the world have found the role of digital media in recruiting new victims alarming.
We do not know who is behind the screen of our cell phone, that profile picture or the false promises they bring us. That is why social networks are a much easier way for traffickers to capture their victims.
The Internet has only widened the target audience, reduced the risk perceived by customers, and lowered the costs for mafias to advertise their offer.
What can we do to protect our information and/or that of our children?
Being exposed to public places, there are many risks associated with its use, but we can take into account these steps:
1. Understand the use of social networks to guide the youngest and read the safety rules within each one of them.
2. Establish control criteria, to relate and communicate.
3. Establish a file of passwords and parental recovery emails.
4. Take precautions against the use of open and unsecure public Wi-Fi networks.
Today's world moves in a space of interconnection between social networks, different apps (games, utilities, etc.) and instant messaging applications.
Each of the social networks has a totally different functionality, type of relationship, conversation, and characteristics. Although the risks may be varied, a series of common recommendations can be established:
1. Do not give personal data to any stranger or even acquaintances, since we do not know who is behind the screen.
2. Do not believe everything you read, it is preferable that we can take the time to validate it than to fall into a trap.
3. Think twice before sharing something or writing. For an Instagram story saying that every weekend you visit the same café can be very dangerous.
4. Report any behavior that we consider strange.
5. Check the privacy settings on each one of our social networks and apps.
However, the most important thing for the safety of young people is that parents can have access to their children's activities on social networks to supervise their use and control what they share on them. Thanks to this, they not only control what data their children are giving, but also who they talk to, who their followers or fans are, depending on the social network and what information they are receiving.
In addition, if you want to know if any of them are being talked about on a social network or website, you can easily use “Google alerts” where the instant their name is mentioned on a website, you can see it.
There are also parental control applications for computers, mobiles or any device. These types of systems can be more difficult to implement in the digital ecosystem of families, depending on the age of the child and the type of use they make of the devices.
These are a series of tools designed to control children's use of cell phones, so that they can monitor their browsing, block certain applications and use a children's browser. Google, for example, offers a tool to control your presence on the Internet that allows you to delete the information you do not want to appear and alerts you every time something new is displayed about you, although it is not the only one.
Don't forget that, even if you can control everything, it is important to bring these issues to the family table to prevent them in whatever environment your children are in.
In conclusion, the risks and dangers of social networks for children and adolescents (and also for adults) will always be there, avoiding and preventing them is not only a matter of common sense and good judgment, but it is very important to avoid putting yourself in unnecessary risk situations by posting content or sharing the minute to minute of their lives, forgetting that there is a world outside the networks.
We must be aware and dedicate a lot of time to learn how social networks work with our family members. It is valuable to know the risks and create a culture of prevention of human trafficking in social networks.