Throughout your child’s life, they will meet a considerable number of people, and not all will possess good intent. While your child may be welcoming to those who come into their lives, you’ll want to make sure that they are in safe hands with everyone they encounter. Here are some helpful tips to keep the children in your life safe from sexual predators.
1. Talk to your children
Preventing abuse starts with you. As a caring adult, you have a responsibility to protect the children around you, not just your own. It begins by building a healthy and loving foundation of respect and open communication with children as soon as possible. Parents and caregivers should talk to children about sexuality and safety at a developmentally-appropriate level, including healthy boundaries and the correct name for body parts and consent. Make sure to keep the discussion on-going as the child ages. Predators are more likely to seek out shy, insecure, loner type children that are looking for extra affection and attention, friendships. They look for opportunities when children are most vulnerable. Therefore, having open communication, set boundaries, and being an involved parent or caregiver is best for being proactive. Your child will be confident, well-informed, and educated about those around them.
2. Know who your child interacts with
Pay attention to how adults and youths behave around children. Warning signs include poor personal boundaries, being overly interested in a child, frank conversations around a child, and not respecting a child’s “no.” Other warning signs include isolating a child, buying gifts, and spending more time with children than adults. Make sure to lead by example and model healthy relationships and sexual respect at all times for children to see.
3. Keep an eye on their devices
Abuse can happen anywhere, including in person, over the phone, or online. For example, if your child plays video games, sends text messages, or uses social media apps, they are susceptible to sexual content and predators. Therefore, make sure to have the security settings set to the highest level, and device notifications are on at all times. Also, be media literate. Pay attention to the images and messages in music, TV, online and in movies and about gender and violence. Talk about what you see, what you do and don’t like in each portrayal.
4. Do background checks
If you are hiring a babysitter or nanny, make sure to run a background check on them. Many sites offer criminal, driving, universal, and other types of background checks for a fee. Some childcare sites provide this so you will be able to know prior if a child care provider has one.
* Special note- be sure the type of background checks are comprehensive and include sex offender registry. Be wary of cheap or instant background screening as they can provide a false sense of security.
If your child is older and joining in summer activities, ask about vetting and hiring practices of any coaches, camp counselors, tutors, etc. You can also check if your child’s camp is accredited with the American Camp Association (ACA).
* You can also always check the National Sex Offender Registry yourself for free.
5. Empower your children
Children who know accurate information about healthy sexual development are better protected from sexual abuse. Knowing the correct terms, age-appropriate behaviors, having a positive body image and self-confidence, and parent-child communication also discourages perpetrators. Let children know they have a voice and that they will be heard and most importantly, believed in their time of need.
Utilizing these five steps will help protect children from sexual predators.
Here are some book recommendations to read with children of different ages:
For children age 3-6 years old:
- I Won’t Go With Strangers (The Safe Child, Happy Parent Series) By Dagmar Geisler
Age 4 and up:
- I Said No! A Kid-to-kid Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private By Kimberly King
For Pre-school- 3rd grade children:
- Do You Have a Secret? (Let’s Talk About It!) By Jennifer Moore-Mallinos
For Kindergarten- 2nd grade children:
- The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers By Jan Berenstain