GFWC advocates to help exploited children



By Susie Hovater Malone
Lifestyles Columnist

For more than 130 years, the General Federation of Women’s Club members have raised awareness of issues requiring attention through advocacy efforts. The GFWC legislation and public policy program advocates for those in need.

The Legislative Action Center is a powerful tool for GFWC’s public issues and advocacy efforts. When there is a national and legislative issue relevant to GFWC resolutions, members are alerted and can take action immediately. With just a few clicks of the mouse, members can contact their legislators, the vice president or the president.

Among the public issues GFWC’s Legislative Action Center has helped advocate for are the founding of the country’s first national park; the creation of the National Park Service; the equal rights amendment; and awareness and prevention of domestic and sexual violence.

There is currently a bill that supports victims and increases accountability and transparency for online platforms. Advocates also support bipartisan legislation that establishes new statutory authority to hold accountable the production and live streaming of the child sexual abuse materials.

It is time to work with technology companies and encourage them to do the right thing and stop child sexual exploitation. 
 Children are spending more time online than ever before. Growing up online offers limitless opportunities. When used in the right way, the Internet can broaden knowledge and creativity; however, children can be put at risk when tech companies breach their privacy to collect data for marketing purposes.

Lately, it seems there are more local news media reports that a person has been arrested for sexual exploitation. Law enforcement has repeatedly warned that children are groomed, enticed, exploited, trafficked and abused online. Parents are encouraged to know who their children talk to online.
 Many parents may lack the digital literacy to guide their children through the numerous social media platforms available today.

Parents are encouraged to seek and receive support to understand the technology their children are using. Teach children digital safety practices, how and why to protect their identity online, caution them about chatting with strangers and even create boundaries around Internet activity. Set ground rules, be proactive and keep lines of communication open between you and your children.

In 2022, 31.9 million reports of exploitation were made to the Cyber Tipline hosted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the nation’s clearinghouse for reporting child victimization. Technology companies have photo DNA technology but have not been held accountable for their platforms.

Around the world, a child goes online for the first time every half second. UNICEF, which GFWC supports, partners with governments to advocate for the necessary regulations, and with tech companies, to promote the use of safety measures on their platforms.

Online exploitation is a very serious issue that demands attention. Only by carefully considering these critical concerns can we hope to prevent children from falling victim to these crimes.

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