Social Media and Youth Part Two
This is part two of our blog series on social media, youth, and how they relate to human trafficking! If you missed the first one be sure to check it out too! It’s an introduction on the subject matter, while this one, part two, we will focus more on testimonies of people who have experienced exploitation online or know of people who have. We left off our last post with TK’s testimony, so we’re going to continue on with that first!
Part Two of TK’s Story
“But there are 3 interesting but sad stories that I know personally, and I would like to share,” says TK.
There is one girl, she used to be my classmate in tertiary. She is from well to do family; I mean she didn’t need money. Her target on social media were foreigners, guys from outside SA, because according to her- they are romantic and know how to love. She met this guy on social media, who rented a townhouse to her in the Upmarket suburbs. He also gave her an expensive sportscar. She did all this for social media popularity. So her social media friends and followers will see how cool her life is. “This is what we call life,” she said. And her other reason was that she needed to be recognized by media industry. This happened 4 years ago, and no one knows what really happened to her”.
TK finished this story with a very sadness in her voice.
“She did all this for social media popularity. This happened 4 years ago, and no one knows what really happened to her”.TK about her friend
Her friend joined modelling through modelling agency she found on social media. Modelling was her passion and childhood dream. She went for a few photo shoots, then the man told her that for her to go further. He told her that she had to sleep with him and then he would make sure that she is recognized by “big names.’ Luckily, although she loved modelling with a passion, she could not stoop that low. She never went there again.
(How many girls were not this lucky in similar situations and ended up being pimped by the man?)
A Member in TK’s Community
One well known girl in the community, was lured by her friends. Most of her friends had the most recent iPhone and were bragging about it. She and her other friends were desperate to have those phones, but their parents could not afford them. Then one of their friends invited them to a “friend’s” house. They arrived in this beautiful, big house, and found a friendly man. He ordered food and drinks from their favourite restaurant. He was fun to be around and made them feel comfortable. After a few hours, he told them that he is going to sleep with all of them one by one and then give them money. The girls were frightened and started to cry, but he reassured them. Vanessa*, the friend who brought them, would be the first one and they had to watch. Then they, in turn would do what Vanessa did.
After they were forced to watch Vanessa sleep with this man, he sent the money to her through cash send. Then the girls took turns sleeping with the man. After they finished, he told them that he would send their money through Vanessa’s phone. And he said that if they wanted an iPhone, they must come back. The girls left hoping Vanessa would withdraw the money and give them their share. But Vanessa told them the man didn’t send her their money and she showed them the only message she received showing one cash send made. The girls were devastated, disappointed and hurt. The other girl then confessed to her mother, she was 15-years-old at the time.
A Foreigner’s Perspective
“South African girls are targets because they love money, “the good life”, and freebies… You see, it is easy to traffick girls in this country.”Foreigner in South Africa
The last testimony from TK is one of a guy from outside of South Africa. He said, “South African girls are targets because they love money, “the good life”, and freebies. They don’t want to spend but love when people spend on them. You check for girls on social media, who have beautiful pictures and dress for occasion. Next you send an invite. You tell her you live in Sandton, Houghton or Cape Town. Then you tell her you have businesses all over the country and you post a picture of yourself in front of a mansion and a very expensive car. Now, all South African girls will want to be your girlfriend, without verifying whether or not the post is legit. You can also go to a club and buy two or three girls alcohol without even asking their names. All three of them will want to dance with you and give you their numbers. You see, it is easy to traffick girls in this country,” says the guy.
Ways Traffickers Use Social Media
Objectively, social media is not bad. The problem with its popularity among children is it increases the risk of exploitation by those involved in human trafficking and sex crimes. For example, the social medium video app TikTok has lately gained significant popularity with children with over 500 million users worldwide. It is a platform where users post pictures of themselves dancing or engaging in some other physical activity. The problem is that there are not enough safety controls on TikTok, such as age verifications or content screening. A study by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children surveyed 40,000 school-age children and found that 25 percent indicated they have livestreamed with a stranger on a social medium platform.
Traffickers use social media to specifically seek out vulnerable children—and they can reach out to all of those children at one time. According to the experts, traffickers are drawn to children who post expressions of fear, emptiness, and disappointment, such as “nobody gets me,” “my life sucks,” “I need to get out of here,” and more. Traffickers also look for indicators of substance abuse, runaway activity, and home instability.
From there, the traffickers will further educate themselves on their potential victim by studying other posts their potential victim makes on his or her commonly used view-and-comment sites like Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, and others.
Like chatrooms, dating sites and other areas of the internet, traffickers use social media to develop a relationship with their intended victims through false promises and force. Some social media victimization cases have even included offering false job opportunities.
“Traffickers use social media to specifically seek out vulnerable children—and they can reach out to all those children AT ONE TIME.”
KB is a 24 year old male and this is what he has to say about social media.
“We are driven by pressure to social media. We live in a technology world where most no longer buy newspapers. When you are looking for job you go to social media to network. And when you open it, you usually see one of your schoolmates or neighbors, post their achievements. Maybe they just got a promotion, or bought a house or a new car or is even getting married. And I’m sitting there still trying to find something for myself. That when I get depressed and discouraged. I start feeling more pressure. So, for me to fit, I will either post fake achievements or I’m even driven to do something wrong that might lead me into trouble.
I’m addicted to social media. Social media is more addictive than a drug, a drug in which rehab doesn’t help. When I first open my eyes in the morning I find myself with the phone on my hand and already on one of these pages, without thinking.KB
We men like to impress women, with what we wear, achieve, and how well-known we are. And girls like someone famous, successful, and fashionable, so now, we are driven to imitate celebrities. Social media is one platform that makes you a celebrity without putting in too much effort. Today, there are so many social media celebrities we call social media influencers. The more followers you have, and views, comments and likes, the quicker you become a celebrity.
Porn on Social Media
Most men are addicted to pornography, and porn is on all social media networks. There is no restrictions for these. There is this new social media app called Onlyfans. This is used by the anyone. As a fan, I have to pay to see the contents in this platform, because people post their more explicit videos, like nude pictures of themselves, videos of them dancing naked or sleeping with their partners. Most young girls because want expensive things, so they use this platform to make money. One girl I know very well, makes R80, 000.00 per month by posting her videos and pictures. School girls encourage others to join by showing off what they bought with the money they make in this platform. “
These stories and statistics can sound very overwhelming. There are even numerous TV shows that display this type of dysfunctional and toxic families.
There was one reality show about a young girl who thought she found herself a loving and caring boyfriend. However, the “boyfriend” saw himself as the girl’s manager. He even called himself a “cyber pimp.” The “boyfriend” encouraged the girl to take nude videos and pictures of herself; and videos of them sleeping together so that they could put it on the Onlyfans page. At first the girl was excited because the boyfriend promised her that it is very secure, and that they would make money out of it. What brought the girl to this show was to find answers from the boyfriend. Her videos had been leaked to other social media platforms where even her family members and friends could see them for free. The boyfriend denied that he is not the one, but he’s in business and making money, so he didn’t care that much who saw the videos. He didn’t understand why the girl was complaining because she has more than 80k followers and is making a lot of money.
It is so sad because the guy never saw a “girlfriend” in this poor lady, but instead he saw a “business opportunity.” How many young women like her fall prey to this?
This concludes part two of our three part series on social media and youth and how it related to human trafficking. Our last one will include more testimonies and ways parents can help protect their children from these online predators. What can your share from this part two of our series with someone that could save a life?!