Deborah Berry was conducting a random check of her daughter’s phone one day when she happened upon something she’d never forget.
Like many parents in the digital age, Deborah Berry strived to keep her children safe by conducting sporadic checks on their use of technology—text messages, the Internet, and social media. One day, she determined it was time to check her youngest daughter’s phone.
Her daughter being only 12, Deborah did not anticipate seeing anything worth a conversation. But what she found would warrant far more, changing her and her daughter’s life forever: in a photo album on the device were screenshots of inappropriate conversations with strangers, as well as a number of sexually graphic images.
Disoriented, devastated, and at a loss for what she was seeing, Deborah knew her beloved daughter was in the grip of deep darkness.
“In that moment, when I found these things, my world pretty much shattered,” Deborah said. “I realized that she had lost her innocence…I also realized she was in way, way over her head.”
Overwhelmed by fear that her daughter could soon be a victim of child sex trafficking, Deborah quickly conducted the same check on her daughter’s laptop. In the Internet’s search history, she found countless pornographic websites, as well as adult dating sites which her daughter had been on, and more photos and videos of explicit content.
She knew she had to do something, and fast. But she was clueless as to what.
“This was not a subject matter that you show up at your girlfriends’ group and ask, ‘Hey, this is going on. What do I do?’”
The Tech Trap
Deborah had had many conversations with her daughter about cyber awareness, that the Internet and social media were dangerous places and not to talk to strangers.
“She was so young. Even though she might’ve intellectually understood what was going on, developmentally, she didn’t have the ability to put the skillsets in.”
Deborah would later find out that her daughter had fallen victim to this darkness two years prior, at age 10.
Deeply burdened to do the right thing and not wound her daughter any further, Deborah leaned on her faith to help her. Guided by what she felt to be God’s direction, Deborah made the difficult decision to send her daughter to a therapeutic program in the wilderness, effectively disrupting her progression down that dangerous path. Unplugged from technology, her daughter would now be safe, and they could get to the bottom of what was going on.
But the road to recovery would prove far longer than the wilderness program’s 90 days. To continue her daughter’s healing and protect her from further temptation, her daughter was sent to a therapeutic boarding school, where she remained, tech-free, until she was over 16 years old. Meanwhile, Deborah tried to process her pain.
“You grieve the loss of a dream for your child…There are no 13th-birthday parties, no first day of high school…It’s gone. You have left the traditional track in trying to save this child.”
As part of that effort—to save her child—, Deborah determined to educate herself, and her daughter when she returned home, on what Deborah would later title her book: “The Tech Trap.”
On Blind Faith
In the process of determining what to do for her daughter, Deborah says God was “everything.” Acting on “blind faith,” she did what she believed was best, determined not to let her daughter down, to protect her at all costs. Yet for two years, Deborah blamed herself, wondering what she could’ve done differently.
Then one day, she reached a pivotal point in her mindset: she considered the idea that the situation wasn’t about her, but that maybe God had chosen Deborah to love her daughter unconditionally through this journey. She prayed for courage and wisdom from God to guide her.
Looking back on it now, she sees the many ways in which He acted, including protecting her daughter from further harm: at one point, her daughter missed an in-person encounter with a stranger from the Internet because she mistakenly gave the man an incorrect address. Had her daughter met this man, there’s no telling what may have happened.
“Her curiosity wasn’t wrong. It was people taking advantage of that curiosity.”
Today, Deborah’s daughter is home, and on a new, better path. Though it’s taken time, Deborah and her daughter have rebuilt their relationship after the trauma and separation. Knowing that the United States is one of the largest consumers of child pornography in the world, Deborah considers it a call on her life to share her and her daughter’s story with others in the hope of shedding light on such evil. Her book, The Tech Trap, does just this.
Deborah’s perseverance through pain, her determination not to stop fighting until her daughter was safe and on the path to freedom, and her courageous acceptance of the cost remind us of the character of Jesus Christ. We at WorkFaith are abundantly grateful for the Light that Jesus is and the darkness He dispels from our lives. As He says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Tips to Avoid The Tech Trap
When it comes to digital child sex trafficking, Deborah recommends parents ask themselves:
- Is your child isolating him or herself?
- Do they not like to be touched, even recoil from touch?
She also highly recommends delaying granting children access to technology, turning on parental controls, parents “providing the phone, not gifting the phone,” and not allowing the phone to be used behind closed doors.
Deborah Berry currently resides in Texas with her family, and she remains steadfast in her commitment to further develop materials for parents and children as they negotiate the ever-growing world of technology. You can contact Deborah and buy her book, The Tech Trap, at www.thetechtrapmovement.com. Additionally, watch CEO Anthony Flynn’s interview with Deborah here.