Offline Safety for Children
During a recent visit to Walt Disney World I noticed a large number of children with t-shirts bearing their names and this got me thinking about offline safety for children. I have always been very safety conscious with my children but this is something I hadn’t considered! As a parent and technologist I ensure that my children know about “offline safety” so I thought it might be useful to share some “offline” safety tips.
- Clothing or bags showing children’s names. This would allow a stranger to gain the trust of a child by using their first name to open a conversation with them. Clothing or bags should not display the names of the child, tags can be placed out of sight in the clothing or bags.
- Teach children to ask permission to go anywhere with another adult or older child, even ones that they may know!.
- Teach children about stranger danger in a safe and non-threatening way as to not frighten them. It is also important to teach a child that even if someone introduces themselves they are still strangers this is especially important for younger children as they often believe that once they know someone name they are no longer strangers.
- Talk to your children about how they should never accept gifts from someone they do not know and they should never hide gifts they are given even if the person given the gift is known to them.
- Talk to your children about how adults should never need to ask a child they don’t know for help with anything, teach them this is a warning sign and they should find their responsible adult.
- If your child is old enough to have a phone make sure they are aware of what 999 is and how to dial it. On an iphone you can configure a setting that will set up an emergency button that a child can press when in danger which will call 999, on a Samsung Android device you can also set an SOS feature, see the following link for details.https://www.which.co.uk/news/2017/10/how-to-set-up-emergency-sos-features-on-a-smartphone/
- If the child doesn’t have a phone then consider investing in a device with which the child can communicate with you, use a two way GPS device such as weenect (https://www.weenect.com/en/), GPS watch or similar device. These can be setup so that the device calls a phone number with the press of a single button. These devices are particularly useful if you are planning a trip to a busy park , day out in a busy city or theme park as you can check a child’s location if they get separated or lost from you.
- Because we teach children to be respectful of adults it is sometimes difficult for children to know that it is ok to say NO to an adult, they can sometimes feel that they have to say yes. Teach your children that respect is something that has to be earned by both adults and children and is not something that is automatically given with no reason especially if they are feeling threatened in anyway. They need to hear it from your directly because this message often contradicts everything they have heard before.
- Never keep a secret, surprises are fine secrets are not. See our earlier blog on secrets http://www.inetguardian.blog/no-secrets-just-surprises/
- Children should never give away personal information. Often children make friends online with people they have never met and will freely share that personal information. Teach a child what personal information is such as their name, the school they go to, where they live, their mobile phone number or email address. Teach them responses to personal questions and that it is ok to walk away and not give this information. Sharing of personal information should be with people they have meet in safe environments like school and home etc.
- We teach our children that it’s not acceptable to hit, kick, scream, bite etc…however there is an instance where that is completely acceptable and necessary. If someone tries to force the child to go with them tell your children that this is an instance when it is fine (in fact it’s imperative) to kick, scream, hit, bite, scratch and make as much noise as possible.
- You can create a child ID kit which would include a physical description, nicknames, date of birth, height, weight, gender, hair and eye colour, any identifying features such as glasses, braces, scars, birthmarks, piercings, any medical conditions, and an up to date high quality digital photo. This kit could be stored in electronic form and be available to send if you are on a trip or a vacation.
- When you take a day trip where there is likely to be large crowds , as you start your day take a quick photo with your phone of your child, if they get lost in the day you will have to hand a visual description of what they are wearing on that day! It can be tricky to remember trust me!
- Invest in a ID tag bracelet for your child, if they get lost when you are out and about then the authorities or responsible adults that find the child have an immediate contact information to get in touch with you, often children are upset and disoriented when they get lost and remembering phone numbers etc is difficult for them. We would recommend ICE ID UK, they even have a great tag that can be added to laces on a shoe. www.iceid.co.uk/kids-id/ – Don’t forget to tell your child what their tag is for so they know to tell someone if lost.
- In the UK there is a Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme (also known as Sarah’s Law). It allows any member of the public to find out if a person has a record for a child sexual offence. Police will reveal details confidentially to the person most able to protect the child (usually parents, carers or guardians) if they think it is in the child’s interests. See the following link for details https://www.nspcc.org.uk/services-and-resources/research-and-resources/factsheet-and-briefings/child-sex-offender-disclosure-scheme/
- Be aware of what you need to do if you take a child abroad who has a different surname https://www.gov.uk/permission-take-child-abroad
Regularly talk to children about offline safety, make sure they understand what a stranger is and how they need to keep themselves safe.
Have a look at how easily children can be encouraged to get into a vehicle https://www.facebook.com/JoeySalads/videos/461221894044663/