Freedom Challenge Africa

Freedom Challenge Africa

Social Media and Youth: Part Three

Social Media and Youth: Part Three

This is the third and final blog of our series about how social media relates specifically to the youth in our day and age. Be sure to read the previous two blogs of the series if you haven’t already! This blog we’re going to share a few more testimonies about this issue, how social media is being used by traffickers, and some practical tips for parents.

How is social media being used to traffick?

We spoke about some of the strategies traffickers use in the previous blog, but we wanted to discuss it further now. Traffickers use social media to stalk targeted minor victims or by impersonating someone using a profile of someone the intended victim might trust. Traffickers gain intelligence on their victims by examining their posts, comments that they have made on other posts, and comments made by the victims’ friends on their posts. Once trust is gained, the trafficker encourages the victim to meet him or send him a compromising picture, which is then used to extort the victim. Through this extortion the traffickers might threaten to release the picture to the victim’s family and friends if he or she won’t comply with his demands.

Through this extortion the traffickers might threaten to release the picture to the victim’s family and friends if he or she won’t comply with his demands.

Regardless of where you live, social or economic status, if you are online you are always at risk of communicating with someone who is pretending to be someone else. Millions of youth fall for catfishing scams every year; sometimes it’s less serious, other times it can be deadly. Many victims of human trafficking begin their journeys on social media, entrapped by criminals who offer romance, friendship, fake jobs, winning competitions, etc. Online platforms make it easy for traffickers to identify potential victims, especially those who post personal information about their financial hardships, struggles with self-esteem, or family. Social media companies have been slow or reluctant to crack down on human trafficking activity on their platforms, and in many cases have developed encryption and anonymization technology that helps traffickers ply their trade.

KG’s Story

KG is a 23 year old guy. His experience of social media is not good. He suffered from depression because of the pressure he encountered on social media. He graduated a year later than his peers. His peers posted their achievements on social media: new job, new car, house, relationships- and he didn’t achieve any of those. He saw himself as a failure. That was a personal experience.

Young people want to be influencers or social media celebrities and they have a pressure to keep up the standard. Nowadays there are so many cases of depression and suicide amongst youth because of this.

Now, he discovered that life on social media is mostly fake. “Someone will post themselves posing next to a handsome car, wearing expensive clothes- and, the car is not his and the clothes might not be either. They love to post entertainment life rather than their real life. There is no balance on social media. People mostly post their lives when they are out- the entertainment lives not their real lives at home.”

So basically, KG found himself comparing himself with fake lives he saw on social media. Often one cannot differentiate between fake life and real life on a screen. Youth mostly follow celebrities- and love their lifestyles, not realizing that they sell them fake lives. There is a 16-year-old girl he knows very well. He says, “she is always on social media searching for “rich men”. She wants men who can afford a girlfriend allowance of 30k or above.”

KG also spoke of the Onlyfans website, which is a popular one amongst the youth. There they post their nude pictures and pornography. You will be amazed how girls and young women are making money on Onlyfans. Even married women do this! They are making money on this website.

How many young people are not like KG, realizing the fakeness that comes with social media, and sell themselves for a lie?! That’s why we must bring awareness to these issues.

Tips for Parents

Before we share our last testimonies, we want to share some encouragement and tips for parents. This upcoming generation is completely different, technology wise, than any other generation before us. It has never been easier to get online- even six year old children can do it! This isn’t something to fear, for parents, but it is helpful to be properly equipped!

Firstly, parents must restrict the privacy setting on theirs and their children’s social media accounts! Parents have an important role in protecting their children from online predators. For many social media platforms, the security default is often set at public, which means anyone can see a child’s photographs and personal information. Therefore, parents need to restrict the privacy on their children’s social media accounts. It is important to note that even using privacy settings, posted information is still in the public domain. As a result, it is important to ensure that personal information such as cell phone numbers and addresses are not posted.

The next step is to teach children the importance of not sharing any personal information with online strangers. In addition, they must know that they should not accept friend requests from people they do not know. Since traffickers often times use fake profiles, even the names of the child’s friends, it is important for parents to thoroughly check online profiles before they are accepted. This is done by checking their timeline to try to ensure that the profile looks legitimate.

Proper parental oversight of their children’s social media accounts and teaching them about the dangers associated with social media, can reduce the risk of their being targeted or exploited by human traffickers.

BK’s Story

BK is a 16-year-old girl who is still in high school. She says, “teenagers on social media spend more time observing and imitating the lives of other teenagers. And this damages their self-esteem and image. It also causes a lot of distractions and exposes us to bullying. This in turn affects our schoolwork and our relationships at home. It makes us believe that we can find solutions or answer to problems. And we believe it provides a platform for shy ones to express themselves freely. The main thing that attracts us to social media is popularity. We love to be popular in school and in the community. The more followers or friends we have on social media platform, the more popular we are.”

Melusi’s Story

We interviewed a university student name Melusi*. This is what she had to say about social media and the pressures that come with it.

“Everyone wants fame, and you cannot be popular with an android phone. If you have an iPhone people will respect you. This is because it has best quality of everything. Famous people get paid on apps like Tiktok and Youtube. Youth are chasing money. If you get recognized by big companies they may approach you to advertise for them because of your following. Young people have pressure of becoming famous for this.

University life is quite expensive. You need to keep up everyday. Every day when I go to class, I must wear something new. Every weekend, I must go out and post about it. I need clothes for classes and clothes to go out every weekend. We have pressure because we need to update our status every day or week. Varsity is more of a fashion show than academic. For you to keep up and if your parents cannot afford your new lifestyle, you have to make some the means to do so yourself. Working as a waiter on weekends will not cover these costs.


That is why more of university students are having “Blessers”. We follow each other on social media and we need to keep up. Most of the time I am stressed not because I don’t know the content of my classes but because I don’t know what to wear.

That is why more of university students are having “Blessers”. We follow each other on social media, and we need to keep up. Most of the time I am stressed not because I don’t know the content of my classes but because I don’t know what to wear. Our generation wants a very expensive life. We need a lot of money to keep up. We don’t eat in cheap restaurants, and we dress up for the occasion. Another thing, we have pressure from our circle of friends, since there is a lot of competition or dislikes between the groups. If another group is affording expensive clothes and going out every weekend, my group doesn’t like them. Then we will force ourselves to beat them by dressing with more expensive clothes, and going out more often at more expensive restaurants. This means even more money is needed. We need blessers with more money to keep up. There are a high percentage of dropouts, and it is not academically related but lifestyle related.

We have more cases of suicides from varsity students because of this expensive lifestyle. We even forget that we’re at university to better our lives or for education because we get occupied with this idea of having fame or popularity.”

*name changed

This concludes our three part series on social media, youth, and the dangers and vulnerabilities that can lead to human trafficking! We hope you learned something from it and if you found the information helpful, please share it so more can be made aware of these dangers!

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