Monday, September 15, 2008

How to Keep Your Kids Safe from Sexual Predators

Sexual predators are out there. It is our job to make sure that we protect our children.

1-Do your research. Go to and type in your address. In seconds you will be shown a list of sex offenders. A map of your area with many little brightly-colored squares. When you click on a square you will see a mug shot of the offender, his or her address, and some information about the nature of his or her offense, such as the age of the victim.

This list is only the surface many sex offenders move or are evicted. And many sexual predators have not yet been caught, so of course they are not listed.

2-Talk to your kids. If they are very young make sure they know the basics, such as "If someone tries to touch you ..." and emphasize the idea that they can talk to you about anything. Let them know that sometimes adults they know and like might try to do bad things, but make sure you communicate that this is not usually the case and speak in a way that does not scare your child.

Older childen require a much more frank discussion of sexual predators and online dangers. Do not hesitate to use the word "pedophile" and warn your older children specifically about not meeting anyone in person whom they have met online. Tell them that there are many adults who like to have sex with children and will go out of their way to get what they want. Ask questions about the family of your child's friends, especially at homes in which your child spends a great deal of time or has sleepovers (are people letting kids sleep at a home where they don't know the occupants?)

Tell your child to trust his or her own instincts, and if their teacher, or their friend's dad, older brother, uncle, priest, or family friend makes them feel weird or seems creepy or something seems "not quite right," they should get out of the situation immediately. Explain the "grooming" process sexual predators often employ, that is, let the child know that if someone older is buying them gifts or giving them lots of compliments, you need to be notified right away.

4. Be clear on how your child gets to and from school. If your child walks to school, make sure he or she walks with as many other children as possible, and develop a contingency plan on how they will get there if the friends are sick or not around. If your child gets a ride from someone other than you, make absolutely sure that this person is reliable and will not leave your child stranded. Give your child a cell phone if possible and instruct him or her to keep it on at all times. Make sure the phone is able to dial 911 and make sure the child knows the circumstances under which calling 911 would be appropriate. Program in your numbers and the numbers of other trusted adults.

5. Trust your instincts. Do you see someone hanging around the soccer field each week who has no children on the team? If so, notify security. But perhaps more important is the "creepy" feeling you may get from adults who do belong in a certain situation. Does the coach seem overly affectionate or "touchy-feely" with some of the boys? Does he spend all his free time with the kids but is never seen with his wife? Does your 12-year-old daughter's ballet teacher seem to go out of his way to have alone time or private lessons with her? Does he look at her in the way a grown man would look at a grown woman he finds attractive? Does one of your children have unexplained new possessions they could not afford? If you don't feel right about a certain situation , trust your gut and yank the kids away from the creeps.

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