The Trump administration is partnering with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to launch a safety pledge Tuesday as part of its efforts to prevent attacks from online predators and sex traffickers.
The initiative is being launched in response to a “dramatic increase” in reports of “sexual exploitation with a potential increase in vulnerability of children” that the NCMEC has observed during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Fox News.
Attorney General William Barr, Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump are teaming with the NCMEC nonprofit to launch the “Safety Pledge Campaign” to combat online child exploitation that “often leads to the evil of child trafficking,” a White House official told Fox.
“With an increased use of social media and gaming platforms while at home, there are more opportunities than ever for abusers to exploit children online,” Ivanka Trump said.
“The administration is fighting to protect our children from online predators and traffickers at every turn.”
The initiative will bring awareness to child trafficking and provide free resources to caregivers and educators so they can learn about risks online.
It will also include a website with a toolkit with safety tips and “fun activities and conversation starters” to help caregivers “guide children on how to navigate the online world.”
Participants can also take the “Safety Pledge” to publicly commit to learning more about online safety and are encouraged to share the pledge with at least two other people.
The NCMEC has experienced a 93 percent increase in online enticement reports and 90.46 percent increase in CyberTipline reports between January 2020 and June 2020 when compared to the same time period in 2019.
“While our understanding of the impact of COVID-19 and social distancing on child safety will continue to develop, we know more time online means more direct access to children, including those who intend to harm them,” the White House and NCMEC said in a statement Tuesday.
“With a majority of children being educated remotely this fall and more children online and using devices and unfamiliar platforms for school lessons and social interactions, it is essential that we work together to help them stay safe.”
Wolf added that the Department of Homeland Security has employed officials to work to protect and rescue children from criminals.
“COVID-19 has driven children of all ages online, seeking connection and community,” he said. “Sadly, in too many cases, this has also led to the growth of online sexual exploitation of children of all ages.”
“Never has online safety of our nation’s youth been more important than it is right now.”
This new initiative is just one way the Trump administration has worked to combat human trafficking.
In August, the Justice Department announced it would provide over $35 million in Housing Assistance Grants for Victims of Human Trafficking to provide safe housing for victims, The Associated Press reported.
“The money can also be used to help victims find permanent housing, get a job and receive occupational training and counseling,” according to the AP.
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