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?
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.
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.
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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