NCFY Reports

Safety First: New Courses Turn Youth into Advocates

A young person isn’t trafficked overnight. Very often, the process starts online, where young people are lured into a false sense of comfort by a potential predator, a process that can take weeks or months.

But new online tools from anti-trafficking agencies are looking to protect young people from this kind of coercion—or, more specifically, to teach them to protect themselves.

These new courses are designed to be “entertaining and interactive, not fear-based,” says Staca Shehan of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, whose NetSmartz curriculum is tailored for different age groups.

[Read NCFY’s newly updated trafficking publication, “Bought and Sold.”]

Safety Through Empathy

As education manager at the national anti-exploitation group iEmpathize, Candace Joice has helped countless young people grow more aware of the dangers of human trafficking. But the technical language in the field didn’t quite convey her point.

“When you’re a very vulnerable youth, sometimes traditional terms like ‘force, fraud, and coercion’ aren’t going to help you connect [trafficking] to the reality of your life,” she says. “We wanted them to have tools that were relevant.”

Her response was the Empower Youth Program, a curriculum designed for youth in 7th grade or older.

Empower Youth Trailer from iEmpathize on Vimeo.

Empowering youth and equipping educators to recognize and respond to issues of exploitation.

The Empower Youth Program is a tool intended to help those already working with youth to facilitate a conversation about exploitation in their schools in neighborhoods. Educators, parents, and youth service providers can utilize this five-part series of short films, activities, and discussion questions to empower teens 8th grade and up to successfully navigate the vulnerabilities in their lives in order to stay safe from exploitation.Our program distinguishes itself as both an exploitation awareness tool and a character education program with far-reaching transformative potential for your school, classroom, or youth program.
Curriculum Content:
While many prevention programs require that the host organization be present to lead the trainings, the Empower Youth Program comes in a content package (consisting of a film bundle and facilitator guidebook) that any facilitator can lead.

Empowering youth and equipping educators to recognize and respond to issues of exploitation.

The Empower Youth Program is a tool intended to help those already working with youth to facilitate a conversation about exploitation in their schools in neighborhoods. Educators, parents, and youth service providers can utilize this five-part series of short films, activities, and discussion questions to empower teens 8th grade and up to successfully navigate the vulnerabilities in their lives in order to stay safe from exploitation.Our program distinguishes itself as both an exploitation awareness tool and a character education program with far-reaching transformative potential for your school, classroom, or youth program.
Curriculum Content:
While many prevention programs require that the host organization be present to lead the trainings, the Empower Youth Program comes in a content package (consisting of a film bundle and facilitator guidebook) that any facilitator can lead.

The Empower Youth Program teaches young people about empathy for others in five instructor-led sessions and accompanying online videos that inspire group discussion. By relating to their at-risk peers’ lives and experiences, youth learn to look at their own lives and the positive and negative influences they experience.

“We find the concept of empathy absolutely fundamental to ending the culture of child exploitation,” says Joice. The idea of the program is to help young people take stock of the supports and good influences in their lives, and recommit themselves to being those things for their peers. 

The Program’s accompanying facilitator guide is designed for parents or counselors to guide a conversation. “We want young people to think about how to navigate vulnerability successfully, without get exploited.”

Safety Through Prevention

NetSmartz, developed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Children, teens, parents, police, and educators can learn from the online games and videos on their own time, online, with subject matter tailored for each audience.

For the youth courses, NetSmartz employs games and testimonials to teach about proper online safety. These resources appear on a separate website, NSTeens.

“We use real-life stories and interactive activities about what you could encounter online,” says Staca Shehan, director of the center’s case analysis division. “We have a lot on there for teens about how the Internet is obviously a great place to meet and interact with all sorts of people, but be careful of what you share and be mindful about how you present yourself. We never want to say the Internet is a dangerous place, or that kids will definitely be victimized, but we do know the realities … that this technology is sometimes used to exploit kids.”

Like Candace Joice, Shehan considers her agency’s curriculum to be a preventative measure; if young people know the dangers of trafficking and know how to avoid them, they’re less likely to be taken advantage of. “We have an obligation to guide them towards making better decisions,” she says.

[Learn about online tools that help young people learn about dating violence and healthy relationships.]

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