Keeping Kids Safe
Would Your Child Know What To Do If . . .
. . . He got lost at a shopping mall?
. . . A nice, friendly stranger offered her a ride home after school?
. . . A babysitter wanted to play a secret game that no one would know about?
. . . A friend dared him to hitchhike?
Start With the Basics
- Rehearse with your child his or her full name, address, and telephone number, including area code, and how to make emergency phone calls from home and public phones. Practice on an unplugged telephone.
- Teach your child to go to a store clerk or security guard and ask for help if you become seperated in a store or shopping mall. Tell them never to go into the parking lot alone. Whenever possible, accompany your child to the restroom.
- Tell your child never to accept gifts or rides from someone he or she does not know well. Your child should never go anywhere with another adult, even one who says you have sent him or her. Adopt a family code word to be used if you have to ask a third party to pick up your child. Make sure your child knows to never, ever, hitchhike
- Teach your children that no one, not even someone they know, has the right to touch them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable. Tell them they have the right to say "No" to an adult in this situation.
At School Or At Play
Walk the neighborhood with your child. Pick out the safest route to school and friends' houses. Avaid danger spots like alleys and wooded areas. Identify places to go in an emergency, like a neighbor's house, a block parent, or an open store.
Encourage your child to walk and play with friends, not alone, and to stay in well-lighted, open areas where others can see them. Teach your child to walk confidently and stay alert to what's going on around them.
Don't hang a key around your child's neck. It is a telltale sigh that you will not be home when they return from school. Put the key inside a pocket or sock.
Encourage your child to look out for other kids' safety and to stay away from strangers who hang around playgrounds, public restrooms and, empty buildings. A stranger is someone the child does not know well.
Teach your child to remember and report to you the license numbers of people who offer rides, hang around playgrounds or appear to follow them. If a stranger tries to follow or grab your child, teach him or her to scream "Stay away from me" or "This person is trying to hurt me", and run to the nearest place where people are around.
At Home Alone
If you are going to leave a child unattended, insure that the child is capable of caring for him or her self. Never, ever, leave an infant unattended.
Make sure your child can reach you by telephone, wherever you are. Have your child check in with you at work or with a neighbor when she or he gets home
Caution your child about answering the telephone and accidently letting a stranger know he or she is alone. The child should say that parents are busy and take a message.
Post important telephone numbers near all home phones: Police, Fire Department, Emergency, Poison Control Center, Mom or Dat at work, and a neighbor.
Agree on rules for having friends over or going to someone else's house when no adult is present.
Work out an escape plan in case of fire
Tell your children never to open the door to a stranger when alone at home. (Consider the height of your child when installing a peep hole in your front/back door.) Teach your child how to work door and window locks and make sure to use them.
Discuss fun ways to be home alone. For example - feed pets, read books, or write a letter to a friend or relative.
At least 100,000 children are reported as victims of sexual abuse each year, and experts say the actual number is much higher. It is especially difficult to detect abuse because the abuser is often a parent, a relative, a babysitter, or close family friend. Children may not recognize it when it happens or know it is wrong.
Encourage your children to always talk with you when someone has abused them.
Be alert for physical and behavioral changes that might signal child sexual abuse. Some physical signs are bruises and scars, bedwetting, loss of appetite, nightmares, venereal disease, and pain or irritation around the genital area. Behavioral symptoms may include refusing to go to school or to be alone, increased anxiety or immature behavior, artwork that depicts strange sexual or physical overtones, and a change in attitude toward a relative, neighbor, or babysitter.
If your child has been abused, report the abuse immediately to the West Seneca Police Department and Erie County Child Protection Agency. You may save other children from being harmed. Seek counseling for your child from a community mental health, child welfare, or child abuse treatment center.
Tips On Choosing Day Care Centers / Babysitters
- Find out as much as you can about the caretaker's reputation and whether there have been any complaints in the past. Is the caretaker licensed or regulated in any way? What are their qualifications? Have background checks been made? Have you asked for and checked references?
- Drop in unannounced, periodically, to ensure that the quality of care meets your standards. Observe how the children relate to the caretaker (s).
- Ask about the philosophy and practice of discipline. Ask your child the same questions.
- Make sure there is ongoing parent involvement. Compare notes with other parents. Most importantly, talk with your child daily about how things are going and investigate problems that worry you or become chronic.
Thank you to the West Seneca Police Department, National Crime Prevention Council (Washington, D.C.), Crime Prevention Officers Association of Western New York, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for contributing information to help us keep our kids safe.