In our last safety blog, we talked about child abduction and some prevention skills parents can teach to keep their children safe. But what do we teach our children to do in the unlikely event that someone actually tries to abduct them or coerce them into an inappropriate sexual encounter? And how do we deal with the harsh reality that abductions by strangers are usually for the purpose of sexual exploitation?
Again, teaching positive protection skills instead of scaring kids will usually be the most effective way to keep kids safe. Here are some basic concepts your child should know:
- The parts of your body covered by your swimsuit are private. Sometimes parents or medical professionals have to touch these parts; others should not touch these parts.
- Touch for play, teasing or affection has to be OK with both people and has to be safe.
- You can walk away from an adult if you feel uncomfortable.
- Things that make you feel uncomfortable should not be a secret.
- Trust your instincts; if you feel uncomfortable, you can say no to an adult.
- You can be assertive; if you need help, you can say to an adult, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but this is about safety. Please listen” or “No, I’m not supposed to go with you.”
- You can say no to unwanted or inappropriate behavior with polite, clear words; eye contact; and assertive language.
As your child grows and matures, use family meal time or role-playing to practice tough questions and act out what you would do. Since young children are concrete thinkers, just telling them how to take action may not be enough. Children also learn by repetition, so you may have to role-play many times.
Role Playing and Question Examples
- What would you do if a person in a car asks for directions?
- What if someone you don’t know comes to pick you up?
- What if someone says I sent them to pick you up?
- What if someone asks you to help them find their kitten?
- What if someone offers you money or asks you to go someplace fun?
In the unlikely event that a stranger actually grabs your child, teach the “NO GO YELL TELL” concept suggested by the National Crime Prevention Council.
- Yell “No!” loudly
- Get away
- Yell to alert others that you need help, and
- Tell someone safe, like a parent, teacher or trusted adult.
Check your school or public library for books and DVDs on this topic, and watch them with your child. (Always watch them by yourself first to make sure the concepts are not too mature for your child.)
As children get older, technology could become a new threat. Predators use computer sites or social media to gain access to children.
Tips for Safe Internet Use by Children
- Know the platforms your child uses and the passwords for all of them.
- “Friend” your child on all social media sites and check the sites often.
- Try to stay on top of new technology platforms.
- Keep the computer in a common area of the house where you can monitor use.
- Use technology to block or disable platforms or sites that you do not want your child using.
- If your child has a smart phone, frequently check the browsing history and text logs.
Taking the time to teach your child some basic prevention skills may help calm your fears surrounding this very scary topic.
Safety First Series
This post is part of a “Safety First” series on children and safety. Check out these other safety-related posts: Poison Prevention Guidelines, Safety First: Could Your Child’s Toys Be Dangerous? , Safety First: Using the Right Crib and Safety First: How to Protect Infants and Young Children from Suffocation and Strangulation Hazards.