It seems unbelievable that over 4000 people who are classed as offenders applied to actually become teachers in the last year ranging from rapists, to paedophiles to drug dealers. Each one of those people potentially had hoped to work with the children in our schools in influential positions. However, in reality, whilst the criminal records bureau, throw out these application, the fact is pertinently bought home that real-life threats such as these are trying to access young, vulnerable minds and to this end keeping children safe needs to remain a priority.
In every walk of life there are dangers around every corner and to this end the question needs to be raised as to how best we can continue to safe guard our children in the short term whilst furnishing them with the life-skills necessary for protection in the long term. Both on-line and off-line prowlers that actively seek to harm children emotionally and physically lurk in the shadows and to this end certain key basics need to be remembered in any dealing with young people today.
What is safeguarding Children?
The government definition of safeguarding children is:
“The process of protecting children from abuse or neglect, preventing impairment of their health and development, and ensuring they are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care that enables children to have optimum life chances and enter adulthood successfully.”
Whilst the law (Children’s Act 2004) states that all services should therefore work together to do what is best for children and keep them safe and that schools should do the same (Education Act 2002), there is a responsibility on each one of us, to ensure that children are protected and bought up in a safe environment.
There are therefore a few sensible ways in which parents and guardians can help their children stay safe first realizing that safety is something that comes gradually to a child, informing themselves of the issues and keeping an open pathway of communication between themselves and their child on such matter.
Areas of to consider are:
- Child Abuse – there are classically four areas of abuse; physical, emotional, neglect and sexual. Whilst some children will become very upset when they hear about cases of child abuse, it is important to point out to them that these cases are rare. However, it is important to realize as the adult that such cases are not always at the hands of strangers and paedophiles and that in many of these instances the abuser is actually that know the children and happens in the family home. Critically if child abuse is suspected, it needs reporting.
- Home Safety – Homes can be accident hotspots with toys left lying around, particularly on the stairs, to a bath being too hot, to a hot drink being left within reach of a small child to name but a few. Additionally, cupboards can contain dangerous chemicals and knives can be within too easy reach as well as a multitude of fire risks and associated danger zones. Viewing the house from your hands and knees is a sure way to see the dangers that abound from the perspective of a child.
- Road Safety – Cars and motor vehicles using the roads are not the only source of accidents on the roads. Children walking around without adequate supervision or cycling without due care and attention can succumb to the hazards of the roads. Teaching road safety to your child in an age appropriate manner that is frequently readdressed and updated is essential to safer use of the roads.
- Internet Safety – For many parents and guardians the internet is like a can of worms! Nevertheless with the ever increasing presence of social media and the internet generally in our lives it can pose very real dangers. Drawing up simple rules with your child and discussing these dangers is a proactive way forward to happy surfing as well as being vigilant about your child’s internet behaviour. For instance, checking what sites they are visiting from the history, talking about the sites they may well come across, attuning yourself to changes in their behaviour generally that might indicate cyber-bullying or other threats from on-line through to giving consideration to parental controls and talking to your service provider about chatrooms and moderation settings that can be applied.
- Stranger Danger – It is a fine line to draw between informing your children of the dangers of strangers both off-line and on-line and scaring them from speaking to anyone that isn’t family! Critically though children need to have an awareness that protects them and more so to be equipped to deal with situations if and when they occur. Again open communication with your child encourages discussions on this matter.
- Supervisor Safety – It is inevitable that children will be left in the care of others for short periods of time from babysitters to the parents of their friends children. Whilst there is no minimum age for babysitters, it is generally recommended that a babysitter is the minimum of 16 years old. Leaving clear and consise instructions with a babysitter as well as your contact telephone number helps avoid problems ensuring that you have sufficient time with them before you leave the children alone with them. With other parents and the propensity for children to enjoy sleepovers and play dates etc, encourage your child to communicate with you, to discuss their time away from you openly and know that they can always telephone you when you are not there. Also only ever let children stay with families you know and trust.
- Car Safety – Suitable restraints are an absolute must in cars, not only for the reason of abiding to the law, but also from the pure safety stance. Whilst they might be costly and the effort, particularly with older children, takes a large investment in time, they have been categorically proven to safe lives. Additionally, encouraging children to have a healthy respect for the car and for your need to concentrate on driving is so important. Cars notoriously are hubs of frustration for younger, and older children, alike confined to small area, often with their siblings with whom they will bicker and argue. Conversations with your children to expose the dangers of drivers loosing concentration whilst being on top of car activities to relieve any boredom is a worthy investment.
These are just a few areas for consideration and you may well think of others too. Remember though every child matters and we all have a duty to protect them so that they can grow up in safe environment.