This Article was first published in Dawn Magazine on 23rd August 2015
Keeping children out of harm’s way is one of the biggest challenges in today’s society. Online stalking, physical harm, abductions, and attacks on their educational institutions are not uncommon.
There are very many things that institutions and authorities can do but foremost it is the guardian’s responsibility to make the child aware of the risks out there. How and when you discuss them is your individual decision but it’s also important to understand that if you don’t it doesn’t mean your child isn’t already aware. So rather than ignore it because the topic is sensitive make sure your child gets the right message.
Things to consider when your child is: At home:
— Do you have a family member who is always present, especially when children are young?
— Do you know who is visiting the home in your absence?
Friends Neighbours Relatives
Domestic help or their guests
— Have you permitted them access to your home when you aren’t around and if not are the domestic help or family members clear on this rule?
— Is a responsible adult trained to first identify and only then permit someone access into the home?
— Do not permit the child to open the door even if you are unable to do so unless there’s an emergency.
— If you have home tutors, do you have a dedicated space that is easily monitored?
Hall room with glass doors No locked rooms Rooms that aren’t on a different level to where the guardian is
— Domestic help must also be aware that they are under supervision at all times no matter how trust-worthy they may be.
— If you have toddlers or young children that need to be regularly cared for and have their own rooms, consider having cameras with voice recording capabilities and remote monitoring.
— Randomly call home and ask why a certain thing have been done or not for that matter to indicate that you are aware of what’s happening
— It may be prudent to even have the child use a washroom where a guardian may be present especially when you have new domestic help
— Draw clear boundaries for any help you have:
Driver has no or limited access to the inside home space Maids should only be attending to and playing with children in a central location Guest of the domestic help shouldn’t be let inside your home They should be discouraged from bringing their own children or others with them to the workplace on a regular basis
— TV viewing should be controlled and all inappropriate content should be forbidden if the children are present.
Ensure you clearly instruct the domestic help on what is appropriate or not for the children.
Other adults, especially guardians, should be told to respect your instructions and ensure in your absence that the domestic is following these.
Internet or online communication:
— Social media forum access has to be controlled both at home, at school, on their personal devices or mobile devices.
— Consider having a fixed time for use of the internet and in a location where you can physically monitor what they are viewing.
— Create logins for them that have parental controls and you can randomly view their browsing history. Appropriate tools are available that can easily trace deleted history.
— If you do permit your child to have their own social media accounts here are some key dos and don’ts for them to know:
Never share their locations Never share details of their upcoming plans Never talk to strangers Webcam usage only if you are around
Ensure you have access to those accounts to monitor (no limited profile views, etc)
Never give out information on the family
Never agree to meet someone without first checking with you
Never invite someone to the home without first checking with you
Avoid posting pictures of the family or self that gives away details of who you are, where you from, etc.
— Mobile devices while they may be a security need also have access to the internet so should be regularly monitored
— Talking on the phone, texting, whatsapp should be controlled.
It’s easy to gain access to adult content in the form of video clips, emails, SMS.
Calls should be taken in front of you or an adult supervisor where their side of the conversation can easily be heard and understood.
Outside the home
— Where your children are is something you or a responsible adult should always know.
— Who and where they are meeting people should never be left out.
— Children must be clearly instructed not to take anything offered to them by strangers without the approval of the guardian with them.
— Children must never talk to strangers even if they see them on a regular basis such as the hawker outside their school gate.
— They must never stray from your vision, and if you are taking more than one with you then ensure you keep a check on all. You can even ask an older child to help you keep a watch.
— If you are taking them to a large public place make sure they know where to meet in case you get separated from them.
As an adult you will also ask yourself why does someone want to add me on social media if I don’t know them? You’ll generally think twice before responding to an unknown number calling you. A child’s capacity to do so has to be developed and there’s no better place than at home. They must know where they’re safest and that they can always come to you.
Do not use statements like the policeman will take you away if you are naughty. Remember, in a situation where the policeman is the only one in a position to help them the child will be scared to approach and you may have just denied them their last chance at help.
Therefore as a guardian always consider what you are saying to children or in their presence.
Norbert J. Almeida Web: Uwww.norbalm.com UTwitter: @norbalm
Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, August 23rd, 2015