Protecting our children from abuse – Part 3
In the first post in this series we discussed the importance of good communication with our children for giving safety guidelines and listening to their concerns. In the second, we looked at signs of potential abuse and what to do if you know, or suspect a child is being abused.

In this post we will discuss safety guidelines for various situations.

Staying safe while out and about

Starting to go outside without adult supervision is an important part of growing up and gaining independence. You will need to decide how and when to start giving your child more freedom based on their age and maturity.

Children need challenges and responsibilities, but they also need adults to support, guide and step in when needed. Children under eight years old should not be left to play out of sight or near busy roads.

Talk with your child about the following:

  • That they must always tell you where they are going, what they are doing and who they are with.
  • Warn them never to go into dangerous areas such as construction sites.
  • Discuss what to do and who to contact in an emergency.
  • Talk about bullying and what they should do if they are being bullied.
  • Not to talk to adults they don’t know and never to go off with an adult – even if they know them – without telling you first.
  • If someone makes them feel uncomfortable, worried or scared to talk to someone in authority eg. police, park keeper, watchman. (If there is no one available speak to an adult with a child, if possible).
  • Come home as quickly and safely as possible or, if you are out, go to a friend or neighbour’s house whenever they feel worried or scared.
Schools, daycare, clubs and activities
 
When our children are at daycare, school or other organised activities we want to make sure that they are safe and well looked after. 

  • Get recommendations from friends and family on the best school or club for your child.
  • Make sure that the facilities are clean and safe and staff are caring and well trained.
  • Ask about the school or club’s policies on child protection and health and safety.
  • Always discuss with your child what they have been doing each day and allow them to share any problems or concerns.
  • Maintain good communication with the teacher or organizer. This will enable you to discuss your child’s progress and development, as well as any concerns or problems.
Leaving your child home alone
Before deciding whether it is safe to leave your child, or children, home alone consider these important factors:
  • The age and maturity of the child.
  • The place where the child will be left.
  • How long and how often the child will be left alone.
  • Whether there are any other children present and their ages.
Babies and young children should not be left alone, even for short periods of time. If possible, find a trusted adult who can look after your child while you are away.

If you do leave an older child alone make sure they are happy and confident about the arrangements. A child under 16 years old should never be left overnight.

Here are some guidelines to follow

  • Talk to your child about keeping safe at home and point out potential dangers.
  • Put obvious dangers (eg. medicines, matches) out of child’s reach.
  • Leave a contact phone number and be available to answer it immediately.
  • Give numbers of other trusted people they can contact if needed.
  • Give clear instructions about what to do in an emergency and phone numbers for emergency services.
  • Tell them not to answer the door to strangers.
  • If they answer the phone, tell them to say mum and dad are busy (not out) and take the person’s name and number.
  • Tell your child when you will be back and make sure you are back on time.
  • Talk with your child after you return home to discuss and problems or uncertainties.
On-line Safety

As computer, mobile and internet technology has progressed at a rapid pace over the last decade, our children often know more than we do. They may go on-line to connect with friends, make new ones, to browse the internet for information, chat with others and play games. The internet can be a very useful source of information. However, most children and many parents are unaware of potential dangers of being online.
The risks and dangers of being online:

  • Exposure to pornography, violent games and videos and other inappropriate content
  • Ignoring Age restrictions
  • Cyber bullying
  • Friending or communicating with people they don’t know
  • Sharing personal information
  • Grooming and sexual abuse
  • Addiction to computer games
  • Gambling or running up debts

Guidelines for using the internet safely

  • Discuss with your child about the benefits and dangers of using the internet.
  • Set rules and agree boundaries – this will depend upon your child’s age and what you feel is appropriate.
  • Explain that internet access is a privilege which can be taken away (by confiscating computers, smartphone etc.) if the rules are broken.
  • Know which websites your child is using and who they are talking to online.
  • Explain that they should not share personal information online, and never accept friend request from someone they do not know.
  • Limit the time your children can spend online and the material or websites they can access.
  • It is best to have the computer in a family area, so that you can monitor usage. If children and teenagers have an internet connect computer in their bedroom, or a smart phone they can go online anytime day or night, unsupervised.
  • Use parental and privacy controls. These can be activated from the control panel of the computer or other device, on certain websites, or from a software package (some are free). Click here for more information on parental controls.
  • No tool is 100% effective and these should not replace conversations with your child.
  • Encourage your child to talk to you if they are concerned about anything they have seen, or communication they have received, on the internet.

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