NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Predators are turning to social media as a way to lure teenagers into human trafficking. The danger is literally lurking in the palm of your children’s hands.
This August, 41 people were arrested in a three-day operation aimed at combating sex and human trafficking in Nashville. It was all part of a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation sting called “Operation Someone Like Me.”
Some of the men arrested include a Davidson County teacher, a Vanderbilt University student and former football player, and dozens of others. Those accused thought they were meeting up with underage girls for sex, but instead found themselves face-to-face with undercover TBI agents.
Every day, thousands of people are talking to real teens, not undercover agents, and those teens are being trafficked out and sold for sex. “I think we are just now getting a good sense of just how widespread this issue is,” said TBI spokesman Josh DeVine.
The TBI is on the forefront of fighting human trafficking with an “It Has to Stop” campaign, just one of the ways the bureau is combating the problem right here in Tennessee.
“These folks have realized that unfortunately there is a lot of money to be made in human trafficking,” explained DeVine.
Trafficking can start easily as a message to a young girl on a social media app like Instagram, Snapchat or Kik.
“On the surface, this can look innocent. It can look like kids being kids. You don’t know that the stranger you are talking on the other end is telling you the truth about who they are or what they intend to do,” DeVine said.
The average age for girls being brought into sex trafficking is just 13; for boys, it is even younger. In Tennessee, if someone is under that age of 16, they are not charged with the crime of prostitution. They are considered victims by the court system.
Even more alarming, the organization End Slavery Tennessee said victims of sex trafficking are sold anywhere from 10 to 15 times a day. The TBI reminds parents that knowledge is power. Netsmartz411.org is a good website to learn about social media and your children.
“Parents need to start having conversations with their young kids about technology and the internet really as young as 4, 5, 6-years-old,” DeVine noted.
It’s a conversation you can have now that could save your kids from being lured by sexual predators later.