Foreign Policy Blogs

How does the Internet drive crimes against children and how does it protect children?

Last night I attended a conference run by WIT (Woman in Technology) for the WIT Connect conference Using Technology to Aid Women and Children around the Globe. The conference was held in the greater DC Metro area and it looked to bring together woman leaders in technology.  

Marla Ozarowski, Director of Technology Adoption for Freddie Mac and of the Women in Technology Education Foundation (WITEF) and Girls in Technology, chaired the panel which featured organizations that apply technology to help woman and children around the globe who have been victims of trafficking or exploitation.

The three keynote speakers at the event where Lavika Singh, COO, Charity Network, Inc., Chris Feller, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Charlotte Dolenz, Boat People SOS.

Lavika Singh, COO of Charity Network, Inc. (CNI), a charity working to combat child trafficking, whose charity was also one of the events organizers, spoke about technologies positive and negative impacts on child trafficking.  Ms. Singh stated that 300,000 children in the United States are potential victims of child trafficking, while an estimated 50,000 children are currently victims. 

Charlotte Dolenz, Case Manager for Boat People SOS works with the Victims of Exploitation and Trafficking Assistance Program (VETA).  VETA works "to provide protection, relief and assistance to victims of human trafficking".  As well VETA not only provides social service assistance to victims, but acts as an advocate on behalf of victims.  Ms. Dolenz spoke about many issues including how data sharing can be used to catch traffickers and allow collaboration among Ngo's and law enforcement. 

Chris Feller, Supervisor of the Child Victim Identification Program (CVIP), for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children talked primarily about the use of the internet in child pornography cases and how a child who's images continue to exist in cyberspace are never able to escape there abuse.  For even once a child is rescued and rehabilitated they are continual abused as they know these images will remain on the internet and continue to circulate around the globe.  Ms. Feller discussed how technology can also be used to catch the pedophiles that use the internet to abuse there victims.  ISP's are now used to block certain websites and e-mails from going over their servers.

Prior to the speakers there was a networking session, where I had the opportunity to speak with a number of women who where attending the event and of course conversations quickly led to the internet and its now vital role in our everyday lives.  I discussed at great length with three other women the new developments in web searching, how students use the internet over libraries for research papers and how you can find anything quickly on Google.  Yes, how would one function if they couldn't Google something for just one day?  We Google prospective boyfriends, clients, political figures, consumer products, addresses, we Google everything!  So did you know you could Google someone and get directions to there house?  That's a scary thought when one thinks of the ease of trafficking a child over the internet. 

Following the conference I had the opportunity to speak with all three of the women who spoke at the event individually, Lavika Singh stressed to me the role that technology has played for traffickers.  “Innovation–the internet, cell phones, and inexpensive phone lines–has made child trafficking cheap, easy, and very lucrative for traffickers.  By caring for victims and prosecuting traffickers, we’re taking the profits out of the picture and making it too hard and too risky for traffickers.” 

Anyone reading this knows how important the internet is to sharing information and educating our world, but there are two sides to the internet and we must work together to use technology effectively.  If a trafficker or pedophile can find our children online, then we too need to use the internet to find them.  You can buy anything you want online, even a child, and that is something I think we may all want to think about next time we sit down at our computers.

The biggest area parent's need to warn there children about is giving out any personal information over the internet.  David E. DeSantis, stated in his article, Site Seeing on the Internet……Keeping our Children Safe. , that "Eighty-nine percent of the 212 children's sites surveyed collect personal information from children, but only one percent obtain parental permission prior to collecting such information."  So the question that every parent must ask is, "Do I know if my child is giving out personal information?"  I know it's hard to regulate every move our children make in such a digital age, but we must make sure we give them the tools to make smart choices and warn them about the dangers and consequences.

I must admit as a person who has worked both in the corporate and charity sectors, it was a pleasant surprise to see the two successfully work together on issues that have such an impact on our global economy and our children's future. I hope we will see more industries and business associations getting involved in doing similar panels and seminars.

The true value of this panel wasn't highlighting on the positive and negative effects of technology on our children today, but bringing to light the serious issues that are so often forget or misunderstood. Children's future is so heavily affected by technology and we all need to be aware of the warning signs and how to effectively use technology as a positive force to protect our children both in the
United States and world wide

There are a lot of resources out there for parents to help keep there children safe on the internet.  National Center for Missing and Exploited Children does an amazing work in this area and I will cover this subject in more detail in a following blog.  Please find some additional resources below:

Please read my next three blogs as I will profile the work and cause of each one of the speaking charities.


Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998

CVIP Information packet

Statistics on Households Computers and the Internet Online Almanac

NetSmartz Workshop – Keeping Kids and Teens Safer on the Internet

The Police Notebook – Keeping Kids Safe Online by the University of Oklahoma Police Department

Microsoft – Protect Your Family

Kids Health – Internet Safety

The Parents Guide to the Information Super Highway



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict