Children are vulnerable to certain types of criminal conduct. Parents readily identify crimes such as kidnapping and sexual assault as the most concerning. Children can also get into trouble on their own. The young mind does not weigh benefits and costs well. Children often don't consider long-term consequences.
For these reasons, it's important for parents to teach children how to stay safe. Parents want to give their children the tools they need to make good decisions. They also want their children to know when to ask for help. This type of child safety training can go a long way toward the goal of crime prevention.
The following article provides an overview of crime prevention and child safety training.
Educate Yourself About Crime Prevention
Child abuse prevention begins at home. Parents should educate themselves on how to prevent crime and promote safety for their children. Parents can begin by learning signs that may demonstrate child sexual abuse, child physical abuse, and neglect.
Educating yourself on the signs and symptoms of child abuse reinforces the role all of us can play in keeping children safe. Common signs in children include:
- Unusual changes in behavior or performance at school
- Low self-esteem or withdrawn
- No supervision
- Unexplained injuries that remain untreated
- Missing school
- Sexual knowledge or behavior not age appropriate
If you suspect child abuse, you may want to make a report to social services. Some individuals and professionals are designated as mandatory reporters of abuse and neglect. Check your state law to confirm who to contact. Parents can also contact law enforcement agencies for referrals to crime prevention programs. There may be programs geared toward personal safety and traffic safety. There also may be programs focused on social media and internet safety. Programs about human trafficking describe the tragic outcomes of child abduction and "runaway" youth. Parents with older children may seek programs on the signs of substance abuse.
Law enforcement officers may direct parents to courses for babysitters and caregivers. They can also educate parents on scams and identity theft. Community police officers may talk to your block watch about home security. They may also advise teachers and students on school safety.
Most parents only need a few good tools and prevention strategies to set up their own safety rules at home.
Educate Your Kids About Crime Prevention
Parents often believe that talking about crime could lead their kids to become too fearful of the outside world. But they also want their kids to know about the dangers they could face. Finding the correct balance is crucial, and this often will only happen when parents themselves feel comfortable talking about crime and crime prevention.
One of the best approaches to child protection is to build up your child's self-esteem and self-worth. Children who have healthy self-esteem will often speak up for themselves and reject unwanted contact.
A majority of child abduction crimes are perpetrated by someone the child knows or likes. "Stranger danger" talks may not help a child who knows a perpetrator. Because of this, it is important to prepare your child to learn skills to stay safe in any uncomfortable situation.
Here are some tips for how to talk to your children about crime prevention and self-protection:
- Make lessons about crime and self-protection ongoing. Plan on having talks and lessons at least a few times a month for as long as you have them in the house. Consider role-playing what a child should do in a certain situation. After all, practice makes perfect.
- Keep your talks age appropriate. Confine your lessons to words and concepts that the child can comprehend.
- Be sure not to teach hypocritical lessons. Try to give your kids lessons and rules that you can follow as well. They will follow your example.
- Remember that "you can't listen when you're talking." Instead of always lecturing your children, be sure that communication goes both ways. Children should know they can always ask you questions. Also, be sure that you fully understand what your child means when they are talking with you.
- Be aware of what your kids watch on TV and the internet and discuss it with them. Children, especially younger ones, often have a hard time differentiating between what they see on TV and the real world. As gatekeepers, parents need rules about what a child can watch, see, and play on TV or online.
- Talk to your children about the role of the police. Parents need to explain to children that the police are there to protect all of us. You should explain how to interact with the police in a calm and respectful way.
- Children are not angels. You should expect them to break the rules. We were all children at one point and had to abide by our parent's rules. However, we all broke them along the way. We may have felt guilty and ashamed. Parents should teach children that no one should make them keep secrets from their parents. Children should know that they can and should always go to their parents when they are uncomfortable or hurting.
Instead of accepting that crime is inevitable, parents should instead show their children that we can all take action to prevent crime. Some parents join self-defense training classes. Some sign their children up for safety education programs. Some parents participate in neighborhood watch programs. Children learn by example. The more you do for neighbors and family members, the more they will follow suit.
Schools have been at the forefront of teaching civics to children. They also can be great resources for violence prevention and public safety. Recently, elementary schools have initiated mock trials of storybook characters as a teaching tool. For example, in a mock trial of Goldilocks for theft from the Three Bears, children can safely learn about the criminal justice system. Criminal mock trials can raise children's awareness about victims of crime. They can also help explain the role of law enforcement, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges.
Create Your Own Family Rules for Staying Safe
When your child is at an appropriate age, teach them your own family rules for staying safe. Do your best to keep the rules simple and easy to remember.
You may begin with household safety rules. This can include teaching a child how to call for help. Each child should learn 9-1-1 and the non-emergency number for EMS and the police department. Many houses do not have "home phones" anymore. Children should know what phone they can use in an emergency. Children should learn their parents' phone numbers and the address of their home(s). Parents can also provide the names and numbers of trusted family members and neighbors.
If your child has to call 9-1-1, the emergency dispatcher will probably ask your child a series of questions. These questions will probably include:
- What is your name?
- Where do you live (address)?
- Where are you right now?
- What happened?
- Is someone hurt?
One of the most important things for the dispatcher is that the child remains on the line until the dispatcher says it is okay to hang up or until help arrives. In either case, be sure to teach your child not to end the call unless the dispatcher says "goodbye" or help arrives.
Household safety includes fire prevention and an escape plan. It includes rules for when a child answers the door or a phone.
When it comes to your child's contact with others, parents know that supervision is key. Parents should always know their child's location and who is supervising them. Parents can also create safety rules regarding contact with other children and adults. This can include rules about contact by caregivers and sitters. You may require that your child check with a parent or other adult in charge before talking to someone the child does not know. This can also cover checking with a parent or adult in charge to get permission to go somewhere with another child or adult.
As children age, parents may also set rules for safety on cell phones, social media, and the internet.
Child Safety Training: Self-Protection Skills
Martial arts and other self-defense classes have become popular means for parents to give their kids some self-protection skills. But parents also should encourage children to trust their instincts when dangerous situations appear, such as running away from strangers that seem like they mean harm. Getting away and out of a situation can prevent a child from becoming a statistic.
The more children trust their instincts, the more likely it is that they'll follow them instead of waiting around, wondering if they're right or not.
In teaching their children self-protection skills, parents acknowledge that they will not always be around to protect them. Parents must motivate children to learn to protect themselves. Tell the children that a safety class will help protect the family. Empower your children by showing them stories about how kids their age helped prevent a crime from happening by calling 9-1-1 or yelling and running away.
Although classes like karate and jujitsu are great for building self-confidence and protection skills in children, many argue that these classes can give kids a false sense of security. Most martial arts and self-defense classes teach that fighting is almost always the last resort. Children should learn to try and remove themselves from dangerous situations instead of becoming involved in a struggle.
The "No! Go! Tell!" Strategy
The "No! Go! Tell!" approach to child safety is a simple but effective guide to help parents prepare their children for potentially dangerous situations:
- No! If someone approaches a child and gets too close or makes them uncomfortable, the child should step back and shout "NO!" as loudly as possible.
- Go! Whether the "NO!" caused the other person to back off, the child should then walk/run as quickly as possible to a safe adult.
- Tell! Once the child gets to a safe adult, the child should tell the safe adult what happened. The safe adult may be a parent, adult, teacher, or other trusted person. If the safe adult was not a parent, the child should also tell their parent.
Legal Questions About Child Safety Training? Call a Lawyer
Parents want the best for their children. They may have difficulty explaining crime and the need to stay safe. They may have questions about how to protect their child best. They might want to know what steps you can take to check caregivers' backgrounds.
Any one of these situations may give you cause to seek out legal advice. You may want to speak with a family law attorney near you.