Technology has certainly changed a lot of things about our lives, but sometimes the same rules still apply, like when it comes to safety. That's especially true when it comes to situations where you feel unsafe or feel like your child is in an unsafe situation.

You've likely seen the Facebook posts warning of potential human trafficking situations or the feeling of being followed in certain stores around town. These stories can be instantly shared across multiple platforms and profiles, spurring comments, feedback, and an elevated concern of sex trafficking. You might have been in situations where you've felt like you have been in a similar situation - it is scary.

So as a mom, I instantly wanted to validate the perceived threats we have going on in our area and make sure we all know what to look for and how to keep our kids safe, so I chatted with Captain John Sherwin of the Rochester Police Department.

Captain John Sherwin of the Rochester Police Department urges us to use caution and not believe everything we read. There are been no reports to their department of any of these stalking or following behaviors at any of the places I read about on Facebook. He made me aware of a site called www.snopes.com that takes these social reports and tries to validate the claim. Last year there was an incident of males taking pictures of a child at a local festival, which spread like wildfire on social media to the tune of 51,000+ shares, but it was all a lie. Read the fact check results.

Here is Captain Sherwin's advice for handling situations where you feel like you're being followed and how to prevent it:

1) Tell Someone

Sherwin said "The best action to take if you feel there is a threat is to call us, we will respond right away. It's a priority call."  When you feel unsafe, it always best to get support - sometimes, it's not just a feeling.

2) Don't Talk To Strangers

We tell our kids all the time not to talk to strangers, but does this mean in a digital space too? Often times people are exposed to stalking and trafficking by the information they share on social media or the people they allow to connect with them. These sex trafficking claims don't play out how it is typically reported in online comments. Sherwin said, "It's a longer process rather than a random follower around the mall.  If your 16-year-old is constantly online with an older male she considers her boyfriend or in a relationship, I'd be concerned and look into it."

While sex trafficking and stalking are two very different things, both should be addressed with proper ways to protect yourself. Help your kids understand what information is ok to share even on their public profiles.

3) Be Aware of Your Surroundings Online and Offline
How often do you see people looking at their phones or walking with headphones in, or are just plain distracted? The best way to keep yourself safe is to understand what's going on around you. If it's online, be aware of what you are making public and visible to any random person that comes across your profile.
If you are out and about (especially alone), keep your cell phone handy and report if you see something suspicious. Avoid walking in dark alleys or places close to "hiding spots." If you are listening to music, keep one earbud out or at a low volume.
If you are concerned about sex trafficking or online safety with your kids, I recently did an interview with an advocate from Mission 21. They can teach you how kids can be targeted and give you some ideas for opening communication with your kids.
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