Hard Rock International and ECPAT-USA Launch Program to Tackle Risk of Human Trafficking of Teens


New York, NY -- (ReleaseWire) -- 11/10/2021 --Talking about online predators is not easy, but it is necessary. 

To help, Hard Rock International, ECPAT-USA, and EduNetwork Partners are introducing the Social Identity Quest  – an educational quest game – into classrooms, challenging youth to examine how they construct and express themselves online.

For teens, a seemingly chance encounter online can result in scary consequences in the outside world. Immersed in social media, funny videos, and interactive games, teens define who they are and how they connect through phones and tablets. But their savvy navigation of platforms and connectivity does not guarantee that what they say and share online will always be safe. 

Focused on these issues, the Social Identity Quest does not judge, lecture or spoon-feed "correct" answers to students. Instead, it generates a student-driven conversation about life online, facilitated by educators, to emphasize decision-making.

Why offer this program now? 

"With young people spending more time than ever online, we want them to join our collective actions to reduce the risk of sexual exploitation and human trafficking," said Lori Cohen, CEO of ECPAT-USA, which led the content creation for The Social Identity Quest. 

The Social Identity Quest will launch first in high schools located in Atlanta, New York City, and South Florida, targeting a pilot of 1,000-2,000 students, before expanding across the United States. It has been carefully designed to focus on choices and skills that reduce risk, carefully addressing adverse consequences in measured and sensitive ways. Educators are guided on how to deliver the program comfortably and effectively. 

"The idea is to focus students' social media skills toward better understanding the risks and issues that can arise on the internet," Ms. Cohen added. 

The sad reality is that human traffickers are looking to exploit young people. And they constantly adapt and expand their tactics. Today, the inequalities and vulnerabilities youth face globally and domestically, along with pervasive personal technology, increase opportunities for traffickers. Consider these facts:

More young people create sexualized content than ever before, the circulation of which can lead to dangerous consequences.

Because of the lasting impacts of COVID-19, trafficking and exploitation are now increasingly taking place online and through social media.

Despite depictions in the media, trafficking does not need to involve someone being smuggled across borders. It is happening in the communities around us.

"This program is one way that Hard Rock is working to combat human trafficking, one of the most heinous crimes we face today," said Paul Pellizzari, Vice-President of Global Social Responsibility for Hard Rock International and Seminole Gaming. 

"Any hotel or casino property in the world can be targeted by criminals who ply their despicable trade. Hard Rock will not tolerate human trafficking if there are actions we can take to prevent and disrupt these crimes," Pellizzari added. 

The Social Identity Quest will serve as an important resource to help young people navigate creating healthy habits online and will help realize ECPAT-USA's mission of building a world where every child has the right to grow up free from sexual exploitation and trafficking.