Q. Florida Mandates Child Trafficking Prevention Education – What does this mean for our young children?

A.    Child Trafficking Education. These words can be frightening. What do they mean for you and your child?

Florida leads the nation in promoting child trafficking education for children. We are the first state to require instruction in child trafficking prevention for students in grades K – 12.

As that wonderful idea sinks in, let’s talk about the background.  This initiative was developed because Florida ranks third in the nation for reported cases of human trafficking (illegally recruiting and/or transporting people for the purposes of forced labor or sexual exploitation). The average age of trafficked youth is 11 – 13 years old. In Florida in 2018, there were 149 reported cases of trafficked minors.

But what will “child trafficking prevention education” mean for your average kindergartner? Will they be learning about pimps and the dark web? Should this topic even be whispered in the hallways of an elementary school?

Sadly, one thing most victims of sex trafficking have in common is a history of child sexual abuse, typically during their early years. Most often, the sexual abuse was inflicted by someone the child knew and trusted, usually a family member, friend, or other trusted adult. Almost all of the child victims keep the abuse a secret.

As a parent you may feel overwhelmed by the thought of someone harming your child in this way. Many parents feel this couldn’t happen to their child, or in their neighborhood, or at their school, or at their place of worship. But this is our reality today; one in ten children will be sexually abused by their 18th birthday. And sexual abuse crosses all demographics—it happens everywhere.

But we don’t have to hang our heads in defeat. There are practical ways to strengthen families to protect children from falling victim to sexual abuse and trafficking. That is where Florida’s new required prevention education comes in.

Just as you protect your children from drowning by teaching them how to swim, you can learn skills to keep your children safe from abuse and trafficking. You can learn to recognize signs of grooming and other indications of abuse, and you can learn to recognize signs of potential trafficking.

As important, you can learn how to develop, early on, amazing communication with your children about their personal safety. This is the best way to protect them from sexual abuse and trafficking, and to stop it in its tracks if it does occur. Open discussion about using technology, body boundaries, trusted adults and the importance of valuing and respecting oneself are key.  This communication confirms to your children that you are there for them always, as an approachable parent who listens.

The new Florida mandate will bring the KidSafe curriculum (along with others) into classrooms to strengthen and empower our children with the knowledge that their bodies are special and belong only to them.  They will learn how to use their safety voice, and how to seek help from trusted adults if they have questions or are confused about something someone said or did to them, including online.

Children who are empowered about their personal safety, have a strong sense of self-worth, and know how to access help from trusted adults are less likely to be victimized. And if they are victimized, they will be more likely to report that behavior and seek help.

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