School has begun and Hughes Middle School (HMS) sixth grade students are getting new Chrome Books courtesy of Ann Rice, Jim Wilson, ‘Adopt a Classroom’ and Project “Get Smart”

Adopt-a-Classroom is a national non-profit organization that provides funding for teachers to purchase supplies and materials they need to do their job and for their students to succeed. In the past three years, Rice has become the largest individual contributor to the Adopt-a-Classroom program.

They dubbed their initiative Project GET SMART – with the GET standing for Giving Educators Tools. With an emphasis on elementary education, Rice and Wilson got busy.

With the pending order of Chrome Books on their way, HMS Principal, Maury Perkins also got busy but Perkin’s project was meant for the recipients, to shed a new light on internet security and the responsibility that comes with these new tools.

Does your child use electronic devices that connect to the internet? Is your child involved with social media sites? Does your child have passwords that protect these accounts from the prying eyes of you, their parents? You might think that your child has every right to privacy but they don’t.

Parents wanting to keep their children safe should never encourage their child to believe they have any right to privacy, at least until they’re 18; and here’s why.

First and foremost, it’s a parent’s responsibility, by law, to know everything about their child and supervise their activities until they turn 18 but the law is only a small part of it; Perkins’ concerns run much deeper than laws.

Although the Chrome Books are meant to be used for school work, Perkins explains that they expect that the kids will use them for other things. He says, it’s ok but educators would encourage them to take care of the school work first and not keep any secrets about their internet use from their parents.

When kids keep secrets, have passwords that protect their social media accounts and aren’t careful about who they ‘friend’, hidden dangers lurk in cyberspace and your child could fall victim as so many have already.

Perkins didn’t expect his audience to understand the importance of not allowing your child to have passwords or access to sites without supervision so he brought in the experts who, in turn, brought in some very valid reasons why parents should not allow their child Internet privacy; it’s not exactly a matter of not trusting your child; it’s the predators you need to watch out for and have the knowledge and ability to stop.

Aaron Hansel and his wife Danita have been pastors in Las Vegas for over 20 years. They are the founders of the “Be-A-Voice” campaign which provides parental empowerment summits, men’s resources, and relief to many community partners that seek to end child exploitation and human trafficking. Aaron was the producer of the Emmy nominated, “Trafficked No More” documentary, and currently working on several city wide projects. He has authored 2 books, “Men’s Journey to Freedom,” a workbook for men that helps them overcome their struggles with pornography and, “Protecting Your Family from Sexual Assault.”

Hansel said, “Gone are the days of parents warning their children not to get in that black van.” The black van being a symbol for any vehicle that a kidnapper may use to lure in and capture a child; these days the ominous “black van” is the internet and any type of social network from online gaming to Facebook, Snap Chat and many others.” Hansel expresses that all the experts say the very same thing, “There is nothing more important, for the safety of your families, than active and engaged parents when it comes to your child’s social media use.” Hansel’s goal for any of his seminars is to build a bridge of trust between parents and their children when it comes to the use of any device that has internet capabilities.

He explains how easy and insidiously sexual predators work through these types of networks by preying on most young people’s need to validate themselves, their looks, their talents, their skills and their popularity on these networks.

Hansel says there are many things that social media does provide or people but there are concerns that parents and children need to watch out for. It’s not the strange or strangers that kids need to look out for anymore; it’s the familiar. The devices most people use on a daily basis, are comfortable with and dependent upon have taken over and provided a host of new ways to ‘invite’ the black van into the neighborhood and more importantly, into your homes and have put your children directly on their radar.

Something as simple as posting a birthday picture, a shot of your child in their first day of school along with a location tag will increase your child’s chances of an internet pedophile getting in touch; most likely very easily and under an assumed identity.

Productivity in human trafficking has increased drastically over the years because of the internet but parents still seem to maintain the thought, “It’ll never happen to my family.” Hansel brought along a plethora of evidence, mostly videotaped, firsthand accounts from ‘victims’ who once had those same thoughts, to prove otherwise.

Because young people are so driven to be accepted by peers and social media is the judge, by way of likes, shares and comments and because personal feelings are expressed, pictures are sent out into cyberspace along with location tags, it’s become very easy for the hunters to find and sell their prey.

Human trafficking is very real, it’s literally everywhere because of the internet and it comes in many forms. From personal trafficking to selling pictures that once placed online are there forever, youth and, inadvertently, parents are putting themselves and their families at risk and there’s only one thing that can drastically reduce that risk; trust.

Trust between parents and their children is important when it comes to anything but to keep families safe it is especially important when it comes to device and internet use.

His message to the children is simple and clear, “Don’t keep secrets from your parents.”

The message to parents is not as simple but very clear. “Don’t believe your child has a right to ‘privacy’ when it comes to the internet. Don’t allow your child to set passwords to sites that you don’t also know. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it will never happen to you. Don’t underestimate the insidiousness human trafficking and the hundreds of ways the perpetrators’ have found to be ‘invited into your lives.’”

For more insight into the dangers of internet use and how it ties and feeds into the human trafficking industry Hansen urges everyone to do their research.  There are many agencies and reports available to help you gain knowledge of the real dangers.  You can begin by checking out Hansel’s website but don’t stop there check other resources and further your knowledge and ability to build that bridge of trust; they’re the most important things you can do to protect your loved ones.