University of Oklahoma University College freshman Lucy Mahaffey received a $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant to promote a sustainable, peaceful future for her work with the state superintendent of education and state coalition director to develop a curriculum to teach teenage children about human trafficking.
While Mahaffey is planning to present at youth groups and high schools, her primary focus is on middle school-aged children because that age group is the most common to be sold into sex trafficking, she said. “I felt like this could really empower the kids. I think that they’re really overlooked – they’re the most vulnerable, but they’re also the most powerful,” Mahaffey said.
She tries to relate to kids by focusing on trafficking through the lens of the Internet and smart Internet practices, considering many instances of trafficking in the U.S. happen as a result of children being online. About one-third of the estimated 30 million children online will go and meet a person they met online. However, at the point they go and meet them, that person isn’t really considered a stranger anymore. “It’s the fact that these kids have known someone online for a year and then they say, ‘we’re friends so I’ll go meet them,’” Mahaffey said. In her presentations, Mahaffey will stress the importance of only adding people you are familiar with, as well as not meeting in person people you only know online. If you have to meet with someone, don’t go alone, she said.
One of the issues facing the discussion of trafficking right now is that it’s almost taboo, or at least comes coated with negative connotations, and some parents or school administrators aren’t comfortable discussing trafficking with children. “I think it’s really sad that parents don’t want to have these conversations with their kids … You need to be having those conversations,” said John Putnam, public relations and human relations junior, who is working with Mahaffey.
Learn more at Paighten Harkins’ The Oklahoma Daily article: Student receives grant to aid in informing school-aged children about trafficking.