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Tennessee had its share of winter weather this February. Many schools cancelled classes over the course of two weeks as a state of emergency was declared, power was lost, and back roads remained impassable.  Kids made the best of the conditions, building Olaf-style snowmen and mastering undiscovered sledding skills. Local news stations posted pictures of smiling, bundled children. With all of the frozen fun, what could be dangerous about a snow day?

snow days

It’s not a winter wonderland for every child in Tennessee, but it should be. For children vulnerable to exploitation, a snow day means more than a day of freedom. When school is out and kids are home, perpetrators may have greater access. With increased use of technology by children, more kids than ever will spend part (or all?) of their snow days on the internet. This one activity, alone, puts them at risk, if they are unsupervised or their systems lack protections placed by caring adults. The TBI found that on a typical weekend in Tennessee, 94 children are sold for sex; 90 of those were through the internet.

In the recent documentary A Path Appears, Founder of VS Deborah Brown Steinberg said, Social media is reaching into the bedrooms of our children to bring them into the life.”  The Life refers to the world of sexual exploitation, and it’s a life no child wants or deserves.

How snow days may look to a child at risk for DMST

  1. Children receiving meals at school may go hungry while school is out
  2. Colder temperatures & electrical outages may encourage co-sleeping of children
  3. Since incest often paves the way for exploitation, many kids are “trapped” with their abuser
  4. Parents who have to work may leave younger kids with unsafe, older neighbors or relatives
  5. Physical signs of abuse may go unnoticed by teachers or peers
  6. Extended time inside may lead to unsupervised internet time for many children
  7. After school programs and mentoring programs for children may be cancelled due to weather
  8. Kids may be more likely to frequent malls without adult supervision

Basic needs like food, warmth, safety, and supervision become risk factors for exploitation when these essentials are unmet. A healthy, well care for child should wake up to a winter day off knowing she can enjoy the snow and then come inside to be fed, warm and safe.

No child should wake up to a snow day and fear the danger of being prey in her own home.

If there are children in your home on this snow day, enjoy them!  Help them enjoy the gift of this winter weather and time off of school. But don’t stop with building your own snow man.

  1. Look around your neighborhood & watch for where you know kids are. Invite kids out to play.
  2. If you have vulnerable children in your area, reach out and see if they have power, groceries, or care.
  3. Be watchful of your own kids, checking on and setting boundaries for internet use.
  4. If you do sleepovers & have friends over, don’t “check out.” Be engaged and aware as a grown up.
  5. Know a family who is struggling? Give them a call & ask how they’re managing the days off.

Let’s shovel our walks, clean off our cars, drive carefully, and watch for weather updates. But let’s also be mindful of caring for the kids in our own homes and in our communities. It’s not a winter wonderland for every child in Tennessee, but it should be. 

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