Why should children be bothered about their own safety? Aren’t adults supposed to play that role and keep children safe.
In an ideal world, yes. Unfortunately we live in a world were we hear of a bone chilling incident of child abuse and scarring episode of internet bullying everyday. And this is not just anecdotal; behind these handful of news stories that get highlighted by media lie some grim statistics.
India leads the tally in the world when it comes to of child sexual exploitation. Statistics reveal every 155 minutes, a child under 16 years of age is raped. According to a 2007 study conducted by India’s ministry of women and child development, 53% of children surveyed said they had been subjected to some form of sexual abuse.
To make matters worse, the issue of safety and security of children is not limited to home, park or even school; it pervades into the online world that children of today inhabit with as much ease as the physical world. There are countless dangers and safety threats lurking in cyberspace. A cyber bullying study by i-Safe foundation found that more than half the teens have been victims of cyber bullying and most children do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs. Suicide games like the Blue Whale Challenge have claimed the lives of 100s of children.
“Children’s Internet Usage Study” conducted by the Center for Cyber Safety and Education in US for 4th -8th graders reported a worrisome trend.
Given these scary statistics and given that it Is impossible for parents to shadow their kids every minute of the day specially as they grow older and start going to school for longer and longer hours, it is imperative that we train our children to be watchful, understand the signs to look out for and steps they should take if they feel threatened.
Recommended: Educating children about cyber safety
ACT – Awareness, Communication and Tracking is a simple three letter mantra to keep your child safe.
The first step in keeping your child safe is to stay connected. Create a few safe spaces and times when there can be free flowing communication; dinner table conversation, bedtime routine, playing together or a walk in the evening. As a connected parent your antenna will be able to catch the signal of a distressed or upset child. This holds true as much for a toddler as for a teenager. It is critical that parents stay plugged into the websites or apps that their children frequent and use. It is equally important to know the friends or adults that your child is spending time with.
Have an explicit conversation with your child about good touch and bad touch and the meaning of consent. Teach children to say NO to ANYONE- adult, child, grandparents if their touch makes them feel uncomfortable. Vividly elaborate on the dangers of sharing any information or interacting with strangers online. Children of parents who have had an explicit conversation about keeping themselves safe are much more likely to bring it to up them if and when they experience anything disturbing. Some books that can be conversation starters- No Means No by Jayneen Sanders, Amazing You by Gail Saltz.
A supportive response from a parent is one of the most important factors in helping stem any abuse that might be happening in a child’s life and aid recovery. A child needs to get a consistent message that you believe what he or she tells you and will take the necessary action. As your child grows older, they will spend more and more time away from your persistent and careful watch. The best personal safety lesson to impart to your child is to trust their instincts and develop a good judgement. And for that you will need to ACT. Stay aware, communicate frequently and take action if you find something amiss.
Also read: Talking to your child about personal safety