Spring cleaning for social media: FBI agent on online safety, child sex trafficking

The FBI is asking you to consider the social media version of spring cleaning. They want...
The FBI is asking you to consider the social media version of spring cleaning. They want families to have open, honest conversations with their kids about their online activity and how they can stay safe.(Pixabay)
Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 9:39 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - For many, it’s time for some spring cleaning. Agents with the FBI are encouraging families to do a “social media” cleanse. Special Agent Keith Quigley wants parents to talk with their kids about how they’re interacting with others online.

Quigley says child sex trafficking is in and around Lubbock, and one way these criminals find victims is through social media. The 2020 Federal Human Trafficking Report shows our district, the Northern District of Texas, prosecuted more traffickers than any other district in 2020. This doesn’t necessarily mean trafficking is more prevalent here but highlights law enforcement agencies work to bring justice to their victims.

“Sometimes, some of these kids are troubled children. They’re runaways. They come from broken homes. So, they’re just hard to find sometimes, and they’re hard to get them to swing to your side,” Quigley said.

Quigley says the FBI is often the second agency to respond to a case, partnering with local law enforcement. He says cooperation from victims can make these cases more challenging because of manipulation.

“They have a lot of things that they’re provided that they may not have had elsewhere, and they enjoy some of the perks to having those. But at the same time, some of the things they have to do to get them are deeply troubled,” he said.

The 2020 Federal Human Trafficking Report found 41 percent of human trafficking victims are recruited online. Captain Leath McClure says that the Lubbock Police Department has investigated more than 400 cases involving online predators and children in the past three years.

“Everyone needs to understand that anything you put out on there on the internet can stay out there indefinitely, and it’s caused a lot of harm to many people who regret some of the activities they’ve participated in,” Quigley said.

Quigley encourages families to monitor their kids’ phones, know who they are talking with, make sure the conversation is appropriate, and say something if you see something that’s not right. It’s something he’s modeled in his household.

“I always wanted to know what they were doing on their phone, not to be in their personal business necessarily, but I am in their personal business. And my number one priority is to protect my children and the children around my children,” Quigley said.

Although Facebook may seem less popular among teens, it was the most common platform to recruit child victims in 2020. Instagram and Snapchat followed behind it.

You can find the full 2020 Federal Human Trafficking Report here. Human trafficking victims can also reach the Polaris’ National Human Trafficking Hotline, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, by calling 1 888-373-7888 or texting 233733.

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