Is social media the pathway to sexploitation? North Country agencies discuss

Social media: The pathway to sexploitation?
Published: Mar. 26, 2023 at 8:57 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - With social media sites becoming more and more a part of our world, some social agencies in Jefferson County say it’s becoming easier to get addicted to, especially for younger generations.

“That is that feeling, that sense that people want to have over and over, and the clicks and the likes is like crack on the brain.”

It’s an addiction some say can open the doorway to a path of forced labor, or sexual acts.

A panel was put together Sunday from the Alliance for Better Communities, Safe Harbor, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, and local schools to discuss a direct connection between social media and human trafficking.

“The allusion of being safe, here we are in the North Country. Well, that we have this insulation of safety, that I know my neighbors, and that I know the people that I’m raising children with, it matters not in an online world we’re living in,” said South Jefferson Central School HS Counselor Heidi Edgar.

Detective Carrie Mangino with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department says the forms of payment can differ.

“It can be in the form of money, drugs, often vapes, cigarettes, alcohol,” said Mangino.

Mangino tell us that the grooming behaviors predators use may also vary.

“Give them monetary things, give them some love, give them some attention,” said Mangino.

Adding that social media makes it easier for these interactions to occur, the coalition of agencies conducted a 2022 Youth Internet Safety Survey with students between the ages of 13 and 15. They found that 66% of students reported coming across sexually explicit content and 51% reported receiving sexually explicit content.