Tips for Keeping Children Safe
Actions You Can Take
Be vigilant about babysitters. Never leave your child with anyone you don’t know well, abuses substances or has a history of sexual offending. Be aware that having a history of any type of criminal behavior increases the risk for abuse. Trust your gut if someone makes you feel uncomfortable.
Get to know the parents of your child’s friends. It’s important to get acquainted before your child visits their home. At a minimum, know their first and last names, their address and phone number.
Check out anyone your child spends time with. This includes teachers, babysitters, day-care providers and youth group leaders. Regardless of what agency these adults represent, its important to spend time getting to know them.
Be suspicious of adults who want to spend a lot of time with your child. Adults should have adult friends, not friends who are children.
Be suspicious if an adult gives your child presents or treats on an ongoing basis. Sexual abuse usually begins with the offender gaining your trust and your child’s friendship.
Monitor and limit your child’s Internet access. Review what is on your child’s computer.
Take time to check in about touching and safety. Go over safety rules and personal boundaries with your child periodically.
Discuss Boundaries. Teach appropriate boundaries through discussion and role modeling. For example, all family members must wear clothing and must respect individual rights to privacy in dressing, bathing or sleeping.
Be calm and direct if your child discloses abuse. Reassure your child they have done nothing wrong and were right to tell. Don’t ask leading questions. Notify Child Protective Services and law enforcement and they will coordinate the investigation.
What Children Should Know
Make sure they know essential contact information. Your child should know their full name, phone number and address as soon as it’s developmentally appropriate.
Teach the correct terms for body parts. Knowing the right terminology helps children feel more comfortable with their bodies and gives them the vocabulary to talk about a touching problem. Inappropriate touching can go unreported if a child doesn’t have the words to describe it or uses slang terms that adults do not understand.
Explain that their bodies are their own. Teach your child that they have a right not to be touched in a way that is uncomfortable, scary or confusing.
Help them identify adults they can turn to. Your child should be able to identify at least three trusted adults they can talk to if they are touched in an uncomfortable, scary or confusing way.
Tell them bad secrets are not okay. Teach your child that no one has the right to ask them to keep a secret that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Teach them the difference between a surprise and a secret. Help them understand the difference between a surprise, such as keeping a secret about a birthday present, and a bad secret, something that makes them feel uncomfortable. Secret friendships, secret touches and secret places are not okay.
Relay accurate and healthy information about sexuality. When your child asks a question, give accurate answers in easy-to-understand language, appropriate for your child’s age. Avoid long explanations that reach beyond the scope of the question. Answering first questions openly and honestly makes it more likely your child will feel comfortable discussing serious problems or concerns later on.
Do’s and Don’ts to Teach Children
Never accompany strangers. Children should never go with someone they don’t know, whether walking or driving.
Don’t wander around when lost. Locate a checkout counter, security office or lost and found instead.
Do not assist adults who are strangers. If an adult asks for directions or requests assistance finding a lost puppy, and so on, your child should get an adult. Adults should ask adults for help, not children.
Say no. If someone’s behavior makes your child feel uncomfortable, tell them to tell the person “No!" get away as soon as they can, confide in a trusted adult and keep telling until they get the help they need.
Say stop. Some touches, such as tickling, start out okay but may become problematic when the person won’t stop. Make sure your child understands they can always say, “Stop!"
Ask about touching. Let your children know they can ask you about whether a touch is okay or not. Be aware that sometimes using the terms “good touches” and “bad touches” can be confusing because inappropriate touching can sometimes feel good.
If you have any concerns about your child’s safety or need help understanding age-appropriate sexual development, contact the Mary Bridge Child Abuse Intervention Department at 253-403-1478.