Help Your Child Avoid Dangerous Situations
Experts Say These Simple Steps Will Reduce the Chances of Becoming a Target
Children face a variety of dangers every day, from cuts and scrapes to encounters with strangers -- both actual and virtual -- that could threaten their lives.
The Internet is an area that can pose a very real threat to children. The anonymity of the 'Net offers adults the chance to pose as children, then try to set up a face-to-face meeting. Young teens may also be lured into virtual relationships with older adults that may result in actual encounters.
Here's what parents can do:
Here's what children can do:
- Never give out identifying information-- home address, school name, or telephone number - in a public message such as chat or bulletin boards, and be sure you're dealing with someone that both you and your child know and trust before giving it out via E-mail.
- Think carefully before revealing any personal information such as age, marital status, or financial information. Consider using a pseudonym or unlisting your child's name if your service allows it.
- Get to know the services your child uses. If you don't know how to log on, get your child to show you.
- Find out what types of information it offers and whether there are ways for parents to block out objectionable material.
- Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with another computer user without parental permission.
- If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public spot, and be sure to accompany your child.
- Never respond to messages or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene,belligerent, threatening, or make you feel uncomfortable.
- Encourage your children to tell you if they encounter such messages.
- If you or your child receives a message that is harassing, of a sexual nature, or threatening, forward a copy of the message to your service provider and ask for their assistance.
- Should you become aware of the transmission, use, or viewing of child pornography while online, immediately report this to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by calling 1-800-843-5678. You should also notify your online service.
- Remember that people online may not be who they seem. Because you can't see or even hear the person it would be easy for someone to misrepresent him- or herself.
- Remember that everything you read online may not be true. Any offer that's "too good to be true" probably is. Be very careful about any offers that involve your coming to a meeting or having someone visit your house.
- Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use by your children. Discuss these rules and post them near the computer as a reminder.
- Remember to monitor their compliance with these rules, especially when it comes to the amount of time your children spend on the computer. A child or teenager's excessive use of online services or bulletin boards,especially late at night, may be a clue that there is a potential problem.
- Remember that personal computers and online services should not be used as electronic babysitters.
- Be sure to make this a family activity. Consider keeping the computer in a family room rather than the child's bedroom. Get to know their "online friends" just as you get to know all of their other friends.
Ask your child to observe the following rules:
- I will not give out personal information such as my address, telephone number, parents' work address/telephone number, or the name and location of my school without my parents' permission.
- I will tell my parents right away if I come across any information that makes me feel uncomfortable.
- I will never agree to get together with someone I "meet" online without first checking with my parents. If my parents agree to the meeting, I will be sure that it is in a public place and bring my mother or father along.
- I will never send a person my picture or anything else without first checking with my parents.
- I will not respond to any messages that are mean or in any way make me feel uncomfortable. It is not my fault if I get a message like that. If I do I will tell my parents right away so that they can contact the online service.
- I will talk with my parents so that we can set up rules for going online. We will decide upon the time of day that I can be online, the length of time I can be online, and appropriate areas for me to visit. I will not access other areas or break these rules without their permission.
(Above tips courtesy of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children)
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, about 300 children are kidnapped by strangers each year. But experts say there are some steps you can take to make sure your child isn't one of them.
Here's what parents can do:
- The advice "don't talk to strangers" is ill-conceived. Most children will not perceive an engaging stranger as a threat, and child molesters are notoriously personable with youngsters. In addition, most children are abused by someone they know or have at least a passing acquaintance with.
- Avoid scare tactics. Explain that most adults would never do anything to hurt a child; those who prey on children are the exception.
- Teach your child basic sex education. For example, teach them the areas of the body covered by a bathing suit are private. Molesters admit that a child's innocent curiosity and/or ignorance make that child easier to abuse.
- Establish that sexual advances from adults are against the law. This gives children the confidence to assert themselves with adults who seek to abuse them.
- Do not instruct children to "give Uncle Jimmy a kiss" or "give Aunt Susan a hug." Allow children to express affection on their own terms.
- Develop strong communication skills with your children. Explain the importance of reporting abuse to you or another trusted adult.
- Stress that there should be no secrets from you, especially those involving another adult.
- Make a commitment to spend more time with your child; the lonely and attention-starved child is an easy target.
- Instruct children never to go with or get in a car with anyone, unless you have given them direct permission.
- Encourage children to assess situations critically and to recognize and follow their instincts.
Here's what kids can do:
- Check in with your parents before going anywhere. Your parents should know where you are going, how you're getting there, who's going with you and when you'll be returning.
- Use the "buddy system" when going places or playing with other kids.
- Get permission from your parents before getting into a car or leaving with someone you don't know. Always check with your parents before accepting money or gifts from strangers without your parent's knowledge.
- Learn to say "NO" if someone tries to touch you in a way that makes you uncomfortable, then go and tell an adult that you trust.
- Talk with grown-ups about your problems and concerns.
(Above tips courtesy of the Attorney General's Office and Child Lures, Ltd.)
Other Resources for Keeping Your Children Safe: