Kitchener-Waterloo

Human trafficking survivor teaches kids, adults how to be safer online during COVID-19

A human trafficking survivor is hosting an online talk show to inform parents, guardians, educators, and young people how to be safer online as they spend more time navigating cyberspace because COVID-19 lockdowns.

Timea Nagy of Cambridge, Ont., is offering free streamed event about human trafficking

Timea Nagy immigrated to Toronto from Budapest, Hungary with the promise of an exciting new job in 1998. The daughter of a Hungarian policewoman, Nagy was held at the hands of traffickers and forced to work in the sex industry for three months. (Submitted by Timea Nagy)

A human trafficking survivor and global advocate is teaching parents, guardians, educators, and kids how to be safer online as they spend more time navigating cyberspace because COVID-19 lockdowns.

Timea Nagy of Cambridge, Ont., says COVID-19 has increased the activity and access of human traffickers because of all the time young people are spending online.

Nagy is offering a free streamed talk show Friday evening where she will interview experts in online safety and human trafficking.

"Unfortunately, the worst part of COVID is that the adults are locked inside but our kids are ... and so are the traffickers," Nagy told CBC News. 

"So I have had a lot of demand from corporations, public school counselors, from North America, Europe to teach the parents and youth how to keep their kids safe online today from human traffickers."

Nagy immigrated to Toronto from Budapest, Hungary, with the promise of an exciting new job in 1998. 

The daughter of a Hungarian policewoman, Nagy was held at the hands of traffickers and forced to work in the sex industry for three months. 

Since her escape, she has committed her life to eradicating human trafficking, becoming a globally recognized expert in the field. Nagy developed Timea's Cause, a social enterprise fighting against human trafficking through education, awareness, recovery and rehabilitation efforts.

Her show Now You Know: The Kids Are Not Alright! will air online as a streamed talk-show-style event on Friday at 7 p.m. The event is free, but advance registration is required.

"The very first episode is going to tackle cyber bullying, cyber harassment, cyber sex trafficking, and how our kids are being recruited today online by human traffickers," Nagy said. 

"I will be talking just a little bit about my story, but mainly we are going to focus on human trafficking today here in Canada and why the traffickers are focusing on the age group of between 12 to 21 and the methods that they are using to recruit our kids online."

Parents need to know that this exists and the kids need to know how to protect themselves.- Timea Nagy

According to provincial data, more than two-thirds of police-reported human trafficking violations in Canada occur in Ontario; more than 70 per cent of known human trafficking victims identified by police are under the age of 25, and 28 per cent are under 18.

Additionally, young women and girls are particularly vulnerable, especially those from Indigenous communities and children and youth in care, though boys, men and people who are LGBTQ are also targeted.

In August, the Ontario government launched two new educational resources to help prevent human trafficking by teaching kids how to recognize if they are being targeted by a trafficker and making sure they know where to get help. 

These new tools, Speak Out: Stop Sex Trafficking and The Trap, are part of the province's $307 million comprehensive anti-human trafficking plan.

Nagy said, while the show will stream live, the plan is to keep airing it so that the information is always available.

"Parents need to know that this exists and the kids need to know how to protect themselves," Nagy said.

"It's not to scare people, it's not to make them feel bad that, 'Oh, now here's another issue that we need to worry about.' It's completely the opposite. Learn about the issue and we're going to teach you … how to keep you and your kids safe from predators."

In February this year, the Waterloo Region Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre launched It Happens Here, an educational campaign to convey a message to the public about human trafficking.

The site provides information about what trafficking looks like in a local context and where people can go to get help.

Waterloo regional police officers worked on a total of 90 human trafficking investigations in 2019 — roughly twice as many as the year before, according to the service.

Police laid 40 criminal charges as a result of those investigations.

With files from Kate Bueckert

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