Incidents of child defilement and trafficking have become common and it is important that your child knows how to protect themselves. John Ogutu, a security expert at Securex Agencies, shares some safety tips that you should teach your children. By JACQUELINE MAHUGU
1. Know the names and landmarks
Your child should be able to recite your mobile number. They should know your names and the physical address of their home. If possible, memorising a landmark near your home would be of great help.
However, also teach them not to divulge this information to anyone unless they are in distress.
2. Know the ‘safe figures’
Teach your child that if they ever feel lost or unsafe when in public, they should find a mother with children nearby. If this happens in a mall or supermarket for instance, they should stay right where they are or find a counter or desk that they can approach and get help.
3. Online caution
Nowadays, children engage with online content much earlier than we did when we were younger. Social media might have brought the world closer, but it has also opened a Pandora’s Box for our young ones’ safety. Criminals are increasingly preying on children online, and this is especially done by extremist networks looking to recruit children. Teach your kids what they can and cannot share online. Details like their name, home address and school should be no-go zones.
4. Unknown vehicles wariness
Apart from abductions, some criminals have been known to target and lure children into their vehicles and drive off with them. Make sure your son or daughter understands that it is not safe to get into a vehicle they do not know.
5. Social rules
This is one particular rule that was seemingly ingrained in us by our parents, and with very good reason. Teach your child not to enter homes or even neighbourhoods they do not know, even if their friends are being adventurous. This also applies to small matters like kicking a ball over a fence into the neighbouring compound or estate. Rather than go over themselves, they should find an adult to retrieve their toys.
6. Food and drinks
Sexual offenders targeting children will often use treats like candy and fast food to lure them. In other instances, they will spike innocuous drinks like water and drug the young ones before having their way with them. Your child should understand that they can never accept food or drink from people they do not know. Explain to them clearly the dangers of doing this as well.
7. Trust the gut instinct
When having conversations about safety with your child, try to show them that not all people they meet will necessarily have good intentions. Let them know that if they feel unsafe around such people, they should not be afraid to shout, and not with their inside voice but out loud, and make concerted efforts to get away.
Signs they could use to identify unsafe people could include: those who take a sudden interest in them, give them gifts or treats frequently, use inappropriate words when talking to them, or are overly physical with them.
8. Crucial role play
Rather than just speak to them about it, you could also act out several “what if” scenarios so that your child knows what to do under which circumstances. Knowing when to shout, kick and scream, when to call 911 and so on could be vital to their well being.
9. Speak out
Often, children are threatened into silence by sexual offenders. In fact, many children would not speak out on such incidents until they are much older, due to the trauma they faced. Encourage your child to always speak to you about anything. This should extend to situations which made them feel uncomfortable, like someone asking them to remove their shirt or pants for instance. Constantly ask them if there is anything they would like to share with you.