Stop Online Sex Trafficking

February 7, 2023

By Noah Flint ’23

image by Rama & Musée Bolo

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused several significant changes in how we socialize. For many of us, online communication is more common in our lives. While online interactions have been a lifeline for many socially, they have also greater risk for child sex trafficking.

Over the course of the pandemic, the internet has become a prominent tool for sex traffickers. This has made vulnerable groups, such as children, increasingly susceptible to becoming trafficking victims without even having to leave their communities or even their homes.

While much policy regarding how to properly police and regulate online sex trafficking is still in development due to the nuanced struggle of balancing privacy with safety, there is still work that can be done in the physical world. This can come in the form of more comprehensive sex-education, including curriculum about social-emotional health as well what healthy relationships look like. Aspects of this curriculum should include teaching students at an early age about topics such as consent as well as warning signs or examples of abusive behavior from people they either know in the real world or online.

Students need to know that traffickers are often someone the victim knows or has a prior relationship with. Trafficking, like many interpersonal crimes, is not something that occurs spur of the moment; anyone can engage in human trafficking and consequently anyone can be a victim.

To keep them safe, students should be given more education regarding their social emotional health. This refers to a person’s ability to form secure relationships and regulate emotions. This training would enable students to make healthier decisions in their relationships and better protect them from potential abuse. Creating healthy learning environments and relationship expectations such as these helps prevent trafficking before it would even occur.

What an “early-age” would likely depend on the subject matter of any given lesson plan. Experts have devoted significant time to thinking about how to address these questions in an age appropriate manner. Experts like those who developed the National Sexuality Education Standards are a great resource. They have developed many of the policies that I am advocating for.

Implementing these curriculums ought to be an imperative for American schools. Preventing sex trafficking defends the fundamental rights of American students. Sex trafficking is a form of slavery and violates numerous fundamental and interconnecting human rights of its victims.

Implementing new education policy can be difficult due to the decentralized nature of U.S. schooling. However, advocacy at local school board meetings or writing or calling a state representative or senator on the issue can be an effective means of working to get these policies implemented. Contact your elected officials today and ask them to support educational policies that prevent and reduce the risk of sex trafficking.

The views expressed in this blog belong to the author alone and do not necessarily represent the views of Albion College.

Noah Flint ’23 is a senior majoring in public policy and minoring in Spanish at Albion College. He is also a member of the Gerald R. Ford Institute for Public Service and the Prentiss M. Brown Honors Program. He is an avid runner and  member of Albion’s cross country and track and field teams. Noah also is a fan of Star Trek in large part because the series promotes human rights and diversity.