The South African Police Service has warned against the peddling of fake stories about human trafficking or the kidnapping of women and children. The caution came amid a rise in such reports on social media, with “human trafficking” among the top trends in South Africa.
However, speaking on the VOC Breakfast Beat show, Director of Molo Songolo, Patric Solomon said it is important to be wary of minors on social media.
“What we have seen with social media is that you can’t regulate who has access to it. We are seeing more children on social media and we are unaware who we are really communicating with and who has access to our information we share online,” said Solomon.
Solomon further added there are risks with having unrestricted access to the internet.
“If your child goes missing the web is an incredible tool to help spread awareness and relocate your minor, however if your child has a cellphone and is harmlessly chatting up a pedophile it can have damning results,” stated Solomon.
In some instances, the rumours are not limited to social media platforms, with members of the public going to mainstream media with allegations of human trafficking and kidnapping and claiming to know the victims or to have witnessed the incidents personally.
Solomon said many times old news is shared on social media which causes mass hysteria among users but this is the cause of a empathy.
“The audience becomes emotionally attached to a story and feel as if it is their duty to ensure the safety of the child is upheld or else we feel helpless but we have to remember that we need to check the facts first before we fuel unneeded panic,” suggested Solomon.
Solomon has advised parents to create a safe space for their children where they are able to speak openly about topics with a sexual connotation. This will make children more aware of their social interaction whether that be on the web or during day-to-day meetings.
For children who are being groomed Solomon detailed a list of things that parents can introduce into their parent-child relationship to ensure their safety:
- Open communication
- Set boundaries
- Address the issue of privacy
- Trusting relationship
Police have urged parents to remain vigilant and prioritise the safety of their children and to always be aware of their whereabouts, making sure not to leave them unattended as this could create an opportunity for their abduction.
Meanwhile, police say that despite worrying voice notes about an increase in the kidnapping of children, they are not seeing a big rise in this type of crime.
Instead, adults kidnapped for ransom is on the increase.