Standing on the Frontline - Our Volunteers
For many years WiredSafety volunteers (under this and our previous names) have devoted their time to protecting our children, saving them from the horrors of sexual and physical abuse and trying to help them avoid and address attacks from their peers. Over the years, our volunteers have cooperated with national law enforcement agencies and cybercrime task forces to find ways to find missing children through the power of social media (Amber Alert on Facebook was first begun in Canada with the assistance of WiredSafety, Parry Aftab and her husband, Canadian child safety advocate, Allan McCullough), identify and track sex-trafficking groups as an agent for official undercover law enforcement initiatives and found thousands of child pornography and child sexual exploitation websites and services which are now shut down. Children are literally safer because of the hard and tireless work of our volunteers.
Because of the special vulnerabilities of young people, our teams that work with them and protect them (Teenangels, Tweenangels, WiredKids, WiredTeens and our Kids Team (Kids in Danger) are all required to undergo police background checks, special training, periodic psychological screening and are selected on an invitation-only basis once they have completed at least four months of consistent volunteering activities with another division and have received that division director's recommendation to the youth-oriented team.
Each of WiredSafety's volunteers does this for their own special reasons. But many came to us and stay becasue of their desire to protect the most vulnerable members of our society - our children. Some had shared stories of having survived the horrors of sexual molestation at the hands of their parents, step-parents and other family members. Others have witnesseda family-member or close friend's pain, surviving the pain of abuse.
Many years ago, while being briefed by UK law enforcement officials on the status of a worldwide child sex trafficking enterprise investigation being conducted with our assistance, Parry was asked to extend Wiredsafety's role in cybercrime investigations for the UK government. Would we consider looking for weapon sales, as we did for child sexual exploitation? Parry had to spend 30 minutes expaining the passion our volunteers have for children. They will work through the night, face creeps and see images that have forever changed their lives. But wepon sales don't hold the same attraction for them. She politely declined and referred them to other groups that may be willing to assist. More than 100 people are in jail becasue of our operations over the years. And many are home safe and sound becasue we helped find them and bring them home.
Now, as law enforcement is better at doing their own cyber-investigations, we can move into a less proactive role. We can instead focus on the new risks and new trends and find ways to address them for when law enforcement needs them. Prevention is the best way to stop victimization. And the more prepared our children, tweens and teens are to face the challenges they will encounter using digital technologies, the safer they will be. And the better we can help parents supervise and understand the technologies and risks It's what we do.
Protecting Our Children, Tweens and Teens
We protect our own children. We protect children we know and care for whether they are ours or others'. We protect all children whether we know them or not, wherever they existfor one special reason - they are children. They deserve our protection. Sadly in our world, both the digital world and real world there are many who hurt our children. Sometimes, they are mentally ill, sometimes they are cruel and sometimes they don't care. But one in four females and one in ten males have been sexually abused by someone during their childhood. This is a commonly-regarded offline statistic. This was the number before the Internet existed, before iPhones, XBoxes and Facebook.
How has digital technology helped enable, empower and protect our children? How has it put them at greater risk? And how can be balance the good and bad better. How can we teach digital hygiene and literacy skills to young people, adults and caregivers? That's the challenge.