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Human Trafficking Information about Human Trafficking Online Exploitation Information about Online Exploitation

Prevent, identify, and respond to child exploitation.

Child exploitation can take many forms and affect youth of any age, race, geographic location, or socioeconomic status. Victimization can occur on school grounds or in the surrounding community, as well as through online or social media platforms. Online child sexual exploitation and abuse includes a broad range of criminal acts that involve victimizing minors for sexual gratification or some other personal or financial gain. This includes the creation and distribution of child sexual abuse material, grooming, sextortion, and self-harm. Child exploitation can have immediate and long-term consequences, including health impacts and psychological and physical trauma.

Understanding the factors that make students vulnerable to exploitation, such as adverse childhood experiences, history of trauma, housing instability/homelessness, or lack of supportive adult figures, and recognizing the warning signs is the first step in identifying potential victims. Signs or indicators may include unexplained absences from school, abruptly disconnecting from family or friends, or significant changes in behaviors including online activity.

Schools are uniquely positioned to support students facing exploitation. Because of the regular interaction between educators and students, school personnel can help identify and report suspected cases of trafficking and exploitation and connect affected students to critical services. School districts should establish and articulate clearly defined policies, protocols, and procedures, supported by collaboration with relevant local community and law enforcement partners, for school personnel to follow if cases of child exploitation are suspected or disclosed. School leaders can also provide training and resources on the risk factors and indicators of child exploitation so that teachers, school staff, and trusted adults can recognize and support impacted students.

To counteract risk factors, identifying and building protective factors and a safe and supportive school community can help protect youth from exploitative and trafficking situations. Protective factors can include encouraging youth to seek help, identifying resources to meet student needs, and offering ongoing and age-appropriate education programs about healthy relationships, intimate partner violence, and child sex abuse. School communities can also teach students and parents about the risks they face online and how to avoid them, as well as encourage open and ongoing communication on safe digital habits. To protect against exploitation and trafficking on campus, schools can put in place physical security measures and screen visitors to school grounds and events.

Within the larger community, federal child labor laws have been enacted to ensure that young people are not employed in dangerous jobs and that their education and well-being is not jeopardized by the work they perform. Employers may only employ young workers in some types of jobs and for certain hours.

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All Child Exploitation Resources

Access additional resources below to learn more about child exploitation and related best practices. Use the filters to sort resources based on subtopic and/or preparedness action.

Mental Health
Trauma-Informed, Resilience-Oriented Schools Toolkit

Department of Justice, 2021

This toolkit outlines a framework for implementing trauma-informed, resilience-oriented approaches in any school or school district. It utilizes tools, videos, professional development slide decks, and concise instruction to explain the concepts of trauma and toxic stress; offers individual and school-wide strategies for addressing trauma and fostering resilience for students, staff, and families; and offers strategies to assess the impact of these adaptations throughout the school community.
Protecting Kids Online

Other Federal Agency

This webpage offers information and resources on how to talk to children about being online, and how to help them make good decisions and stay safe.
Training Program
Child Exploitation
Understanding Human Trafficking

Department of Justice

This training is a series of five interactive online modules that offer foundational learning on trauma-informed and victim-centered approaches to human trafficking. 
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