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Saturday, April 20, 2013

10 Tips for Keeping Children Safe

Keeping children safe should be every parents priority.
Keeping children safe from harm is one of the most important jobs parents and child care guardians and caregivers have. From the time a woman conceives, focus shifts from the mother to that of the infant growing within her womb. Women who love, care for and nurture their children give up substances that are harmful to a child’s growth and focus their attention on ensuring the child has a protective and safe environment. As children grow, this is also the primary concern by parents who care for their children. If an environment isn’t the safest for a child to grow and thrive, then changes must be made to ensure the safety and well-being of children.

As the new millennium has brought with it an increase of child crimes, abductions, and the ever-growing threat of sexual predators and offenders, parents must also take steps to ensure their children are safe from these dangers as well. From predators in children’s environments (such as school, summer camps, day care settings and churches) to Internet threats from sexual predators and offenders who would hide their identity in order to lure children into sexual situations, parents must take a proactive role in their children’s lives in order to ensure absolute safety.
While some would like to keep their head in the sand and pretend that once they open the front door their child will step onto the idyllic streets of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry or enter the world of 50’s charm such as on Leave it to Beaver, the truth is that today’s children live in a war zone filled with predators and sexual deviants that spend their days looking for children to hurt, harm, steal, kill and destroy. At the same time, parents are left with the daunting task of trying to keep children safe, giving them the tools they need to remain protected in a variety of situations, without instilling fear, panic and even terror in them.

It is a daunting task, no doubt and many parents are left wondering what is the appropriate and best method for teaching children safety.

While every family is different and one parent may become extremely overprotective while another offers children unlimited amounts of freedom, there are steps that all parents can take that will help ensure their children have the wisdom, knowledge and tools available to identify dangerous situations and know how to handle them.

Here are 10 tips parents and child caregivers may use to keep children safe.

1.Let Those who work with your Children know you are Involved

While some sexual predators and offenders randomly pick children for their crimes, others target those who fit a profile. Children who are often depressed, quiet, withdrawn and lonely often come to the attention of sexual offenders and predators. This is because a predator may see an opportunity to fulfil a role in the child’s life where he or she is missing a solid relationship with an adult, and there is greater chance a withdrawn, quiet child will keep abuse secret. With a near epidemic of sexual abuse occurring in our nation’s schools, it is important for parents and child care guardians to let teachers and coaches know they are actively involved in their children’s lives.

Meeting teachers and coaches immediately, involving yourself in school activities, and letting those who work with children know you are involved, active and have open and frequent communication with your child can lower the risk of your child being targeted by predators.

2. Talk to your Kids and Don’t Ignore Warning Signs

Speak to your children on a daily basis about the people who they come in contact with and look for warning signs of inappropriate adult/child behavior and relationships. Many times children are sexually abused by someone they know, and teaching “stranger danger” simply isn’t adequate to ensure children are protected and aware of the dangers they may face. Children should be aware that someone they trust could still cause them harm and it is never a good idea to give someone in your child’s life 100% trust.

If a child shows signs of discomfort at the mention of an adult’s name, do not ignore this, but ask questions. A child who is being abused may become quiet, withdrawn, show signs of anxiety, agitation or discomfort, or even change the subject if the name of someone who is abusing them is mentioned or if a discussion turns towards that person. Be wary of any adult that seeks to spend inordinate amounts of time with your child.

Look at Jerry Sandusky for example. Sandusky had earned the trust of both children and their parents and went out of his way to spend “alone” time with his victims.

Children do not have the skills to protect themselves when they are unduly influenced and manipulated by grown adults. It is up to parents to ensure their children are safe and protected.

Grown adults who try to spend time with your children alone is one of the greatest warning signs you are dealing with a possible sexual predator.

3. Teach Children Healthy, Appropriate Relationships and let them know he or she is in Control of his or her Body

One of the best ways to keep children safe from predators and unhealthy relationships is to teach them what a good, healthy relationship looks like. Also, teach children that they are in control of their bodies and no one has the right to touch their body. Children should understand the importance of open communication with their parents or other child caregivers, and should have the freedom to express any concerns they have. If an adult or another child makes him or her feel uncomfortable, they must have the assurance of knowing they can tell a trusted adult who will believe and validate their concerns.

4. Know Where your Child is at all Times

There is simply no way around it; parents must know where their children are at all times. Even when a parent is aware of a child’s schedule or plans, dangerous situations can happen, but a parent who knows when and where a child was last seen, whom he or she was with, is taking necessary precautions that can provide pertinent information should a child go missing. Communicate with your child frequently and ensure that he or she knows how to contact you or another trusted adult in an emergency.

5. Know your Child’s Friends, Habits and Routines

Part of being an involved parent means knowing your child’s friends, habits and routines. Tragedy can strike in the blink of an eye and the only way parents can truly be prepared is to do their best to prevent disaster from occurring. Know your child’s habits, routines and acquaint yourself with his or her friends. Meet your child’s friends parents and know where they live, how to get in touch with them, and keep an open door of communication with them as well. By involving yourself in all aspects of your child’s life, you can detect warning signs that something may not be right.

6. Monitor your Child’s Internet Activity

Like it or not, children use the Internet. Even the majority of children who aren’t allowed to use the Internet will find a way to use it. Children must be taught Internet safety and rules regarding the type of information they will post and share online. Home computers may be set up with parental protection blocks that will provide parents data and tracking information as to their child’s online behavior.

There are numerous resources available that children and parents may use to further understand Internet dangers and how to reduce those risks.

7. Teach Your Children the Dangers and Consequences of Sexting

Sexting is a growing area of concern that not only can endanger a child’s safety due to sexual predators, but can also lead to bullying in the school setting. Sexting occurs when a child engages in sexual activity via a mobile phone or through the use of a web based application. Sexting may range from sending sexually explicit text messages to sharing semi-nude or nude photos. Sexting is not only dangerous, but it is a crime. When minors share semi-nude or nude photos of themselves, they are engaging in child porn. This includes those who receive those photos as well.

Sextng has led to several tragic cases where young girls have taken their lives due to the bullying and harassment that followed their sharing photos with others. Make sure your child is aware of these dangers and understands the risks of sexting.

8. Look for Secretive Behaviors

One of the most tell-tale signs that something is going wrong in a child’s life is that he or she will begin to behave in a secret manner. A child who is being sexually molested or abused may become secretive regarding a relationship with their abuser. Teens engaging in sexting may suddenly become glued to their cell-phone and frequently leave the room or go somewhere private to answer texts. Children may sneak on computers to communicate with someone they believe is a friend, who may instead be a sexual predator.

Any secretive behavior is an indication that your child is in trouble and needs to be addressed. Never ignore secretive behavior or assume your child simply needs his or her privacy. Something is going on and it is your job to determine what it is. Children and teens should feel confident enough in your relationship that they do not need to keep secrets from you, but let you know what they are dealing with.

If children fear punishment to the point they won’t come to you for help, there is a breakdown in your relationship and you, as the parent, must make steps to ensure your child’s safety and well-being comes first.

9. Teach Children to Trust their Instincts

Sometimes parents spend so much time telling children what to do, they neglect teaching children how to think for themselves. While it is true that children needs rules, boundaries and guidelines, they should also learn how to trust their own instincts and learn how to make their own decisions when it comes to choosing right from wrong.

Parents must guide children through life as they will ultimately be on their own and set free in the world where they will have to rely upon their own moral compass. Children who are encouraged from a young age to trust their instincts and gut feelings may have an easier time saying no to negative situations, turning away from peer pressure, and recognizing harmful people than those who have only been taught to follow their parent’s rules, but not how to think for themselves.

All children have natural instincts about situations, dangers, and people and more often than not, those instincts are correct. If a child instinctively feels uncomfortable around a person, they should be encouraged to follow their gut feelings and not forced to associate with people they are uncomfortable with.

Children who recognize when they feel uncomfortable and have been encouraged to use their voice to say “No,” are less likely to become manipulated by sexual predators and offenders and may even withstand peer pressure better than those who were never taught to trust their basic instincts.

10. Teach Children it’s Okay to say ‘No’ and at times be Rude

Children are taught to respect their elders, to listen when spoken to, and to be polite. Seldom are children taught to be rude to adults or to answer a request with a firm, “No.” These are different times and children must be taught that there are situations when it is okay to be rude to adults. When children learn to trust their first instincts, they will have the freedom within to tell adults “No,” run away, or ignore someone who is making them feel uncomfortable.

A child or teen walking down the street shouldn’t be approached by an adult for directions, help finding a lost animal, or any other proposal. If an adult approaches a child, he or she should feel comfortable leaving immediately, running away from the situation,  or ignoring the request without feeling he or she is being rude.

By focusing on preventing disaster and tragedy by teaching children how to be safe, smart and prepared, you can lower the risk of their becoming victimized by sexual offenders and predators.

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