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'Once Upon a Crime': Increased screen time during pandemic leaves kids vulnerable to online predators

The Selah Way Foundation produced an anti-trafficking campaign to educate parents and kids while on their devices during quarantine.

SARASOTA, Fla. — "Once upon a crime, in your town, USA..."

That's how three stories begin, each one about a different little girl - Alice, Alana, and Ella. 

Each girl is dressed in a pastel tutu and wears a crown. At first glance, it looks like a short fairy tale to read to your little girl and that's exactly what The Selah Way Foundation intended. Instead, each storyline paints the heartbreaking yet all too real picture of how easy it is for a child to be sold for sex.

The Selah Way Foundation, an arm of Selah Freedom, the largest anti-sex trafficking organization in the country, launched a new PSA campaign called, "Once Upon a Crime." The campaign's goal is to educate parents and kids about how young children get lured into the sex business.

"We raise our little girls to think it’s all about the right boy or even a little girl that was raised in abuse, she’s looking for her rescuer, her hero and these predators know that. They will go to great lengths to pretend, to pose as that Prince Charming," said Elizabeth Melendez Fisher Good, co-founder of Selah Freedom & The Selah Way Foundation. 

Advocates with Selah Freedom and ECPAT International recently released new information about why children are at risk of sexual abuse and exploitation during COVID-19, specifically those with poor living conditions and family instability. 

RELATED: Tampa organization says sex trafficking demand has increased amid coronavirus pandemic

"The predators are posing as another child and when your kids are stuck in their room now, they are bored, they are maybe talking to people that they wouldn’t have talked to before when they didn’t have the time," explained Melendez Fisher Good.

“Once Upon a Crime” targets parents and children as young as five to raise awareness about the signs of sex trafficking.

The storylines read like a fairy tale through a whimsical rhyme, but reveal a dark reality about sex trafficking, explaining how "Romeos’ manipulate girls by preying on their desires and insecurities. 

CHECK YOUR PRIVACY SETTINGS

According to the Center for Cyber Safety and Education, Houseparty and TikTok have become two of the most popular apps during the coronavirus outbreak. They are popular among young people so you'll want to take steps to protect your kids.

For example, Houseparty can access your contacts if you include your phone number when signing up. Skip this step to have more control over who you connect with. By default, TikTok sets your account to public so you need to manually change the account to private. Read about other safety measures you can take here.

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