“Your five-year-old daughter is playing in her room with a couple of friends. You hear a lot of giggling and squealing. When you open the door to check on the kids, you find them sitting on the floor with their panties off, pointing at and touching each other’s genitals….” begins a booklet on sexual development and behavior put out by NCTSN.
Maybe I have gotten you to read this far and you are about to close the document thinking there will not be anything relevant to you or your family. Hold on! In a recent two week time span I learned what families—living abroad just like you–are facing. In one instance, 10-12 year old boys were taking pictures of their private parts at school and showing the pictures to girls. Another family experienced something similar to the introduction, when a close friend’s 8-year- old son and their 7-year-old daughter decided to lock the bedroom door and get naked.
While statistics state that 90% of child sexual abuse occurs by someone who the child knows and may trust, Don’t Talk to Strangers is still a relevant topic to discuss with our children and to be aware of as parents in how to protect our children. Additionally, we also must be aware of sexting, cyberbullies, internet safety, and other ways we must guard our children (and help them learn how to protect themselves).
This link offers a variety of free activities for teaching your kids about strangers.
Here is a personal safety journal you can print and let your children color and discuss with you.
This is a full-color storybook that teaches kids how to be safe in public places. It is called The Great Tomato Adventure. This page also includes a link for you to download and print the storybook. http://www.powerofparentsonline.com/teaching_tools/storybook/
What age is too old for “playing doctor?” What do you do when you walk into a room to find young children playing naked? The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has an article titled Sexual Development and Behavior in Children. In very clearly laid out tables and lists this article provides common sexual behaviors at various childhood ages. It also explains how to calmly handle the situation with practical questions to ask and things to do with or say to your child. Finally, it provides a section on what to teach your child and when to teach it.
Bullying and Cyberbullying
One of the best things you as a parent can do is to become familiar with what problems are occurring and how you can help your kids not become a victim (or teach them how to get help if they are a victim). The following link provides some clear cut definitions, tip sheets, and preventatives. http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/adults/cyber-bullying.aspx
Though I have not viewed any of these so I suggest you preview any that you think you may want to show your kids, the bullying site also has several webisodes you can watch as a family: http://www.stopbullyingnow.hrsa.gov/kids/webisodes/default.aspx.
Whether it is 10 year olds showing photos of themselves to kids at school, or adults who send pornographic photos via cell phones, it is sexting.
If you are a person who wants to see a fact sheet with a quick read of statistics involving the sending of sexual photos by cell phone or internet, click here: http://lookingglasstheatre.org/trust/Youth_and_Technology_Fact_Sheet.pdf
If you would like a full definition and read about some legal cases that have arisen against teens who send sexual images by cell phone or internet, click here: http://www.a-better-child.org/page/2812637
This article that deals with rape, incest, and abuse, also has some great introductions to sexual bullying, internet grooming, cyberstalking, and tips for parents and young people.
Here is a Focus on the Family article on cell phone safety and rules.
There are some simple things that you can do to address many of these concerns.
- Don’t let a child’s bedroom door be lockable.
- Practice the rule: Only one child in the bathroom at a time.
- Check in on your children frequently when they are playing with friends.
- Have an open door policy when kids are over to play.
- Don’t give your kids cell phones with camera capability.
- When your kids share information about something they have seen or been involved in, stay calm, listen, and believe them.
- Talk with your kids about touching safety (see resource list at end). Do not just talk to them one time and assume that is enough. Begin an ongoing dialogue with them. Your kids need to see you as a safe and comfortable person to come to with their questions. If they feel that you are uncomfortable or not wanting to discuss topics about their bodies, they will ask friends or google it.
PreSchool-Grade 3 $10.85
Your Body Belongs to You
PreSchool-Grade 2. $6.99
For a very interesting article by a mother of Tweens read:
Tweens in Cyber Space about protecting our kids in this high tech world.