Teaching Children How to Help Keep Themselves Safe!
If we can't ensure that children are always supervised when they are outside our projects, or eliminate factors that leave children in vulnerable positions then we do the next best thing. We educate them on safety and how to help keep themselves safe. For this purpose we created our Child Safety Modules.
Keeping Children Safe: Creating our Child Safety Modules
We have aimed to make our new child safety module and abuse prevention teachings as well-informed as possible. This has been achieved through two main avenues:
- Engagement with the children and their parents
- Review of the current literature and research available on the topic of child safety and abuse prevention
We want to keep children safe, and this needs to be done with them! We listen to children’s experiences, consider ways we could make that experience better and THEN we designed the training module. Children’s voices need to be the start of the system reform process, not the last.
The world is not happening to them, it is happening with them, and their opinions on their own safety are important. They know their own lives and experiences better than we do, and so we allow the children to shape the contents of the module.
Meaningful participation requires viewing children and young people as unique individuals, because the experiences of one child or young person cannot be assumed to be representative of all children and young people
By talking with the children, we get to understand what makes them scared and when the feel most safe. By also talking with parents, we can discover their biggest concerns for their children.
From this process, we can design the child safety modules suited to the children, their culture and location.
We need to change how we understand and utilise the inclusion of children’s voices in system reform. The following graphic explains the difference between traditional child engagement and best practice engagement:
Extensive research was vital to inform the programme. Additionally, a review of current literature on abuse prevention techniques and other content for a well-rounded module was part of the research process.
We used resources from partner organisations such as Keeping Children Safe in the UK. Many articles were researched to help us design a programme fit for purpose.
Special mention needs to go to Ireland’s Stay Safe programme, which is comprehensive, publicly available for free download, and breaks down the content into 4 age groups. The safety programmes of Canada, New Zealand and several states in America were also referenced. This was a good starting point to look into how different countries consider the issues of child safety and how they individually structure their curriculum.
Child Safety Module Example
The results of each particular child engagement module will inevitably produce some universal examples of child safety, but many results will derive from the context in which that child lives.
For example, in Peru, several children reported feeling unsafe getting into cars with strangers. From a developed world perspective, the very idea that a child would choose to get into a car with a stranger is horrifying, however we must consider the context of this response. “Collectivos”, or shared taxis, are a popular mode of transportation in Cusco, and will be the primary method of transport for many rural children travelling to and from school. We cannot stop children using this form of transport, but we can teach them how to use them safely.
The training modules outline below was created from interviews and research carried out in Peru. The content for each module will differ depending on the location it is used. Likewise, there may be additional modules to address issues specific to the country. For example, in Cambodia the programme has an additional 2 modules addressing country specific topics. Additionally, the content in the other modules differs slightly so it is relevant to the children there.
Unit 1: Confidence
Research has shown that confident children are less likely to be victims of child abuse. This unit is not a class, but an ongoing goal of the teachers, staff and volunteers to build our children up and encourage them to believe in themselves
Children believe in themselves.
Children know they will be believed if they disclose something serious to a member of staff.
Unit 2: Feelings
Before we can teach the children about good/bad touches and experiences and what to do about it, we need to first ensure that they can identify and name their feelings
Children learn that feelings are not good or bad, but they can inform us about our experiences.
They can make links between feelings and experiences and needs, eg “I feel hungry, so I need to eat” or “a dog chases me, I feel scared”.
Children can name some core emotions (happy, sad, angry, scared etc) and identify times they may feel them.
They learn what to do when they feel negative emotions like scared or uncomfortable
Unit 3: Trusted Adults
When things go wrong or something scary happens, a child needs to tell an adult about it. But sometimes, the adult will be busy or won’t listen. Children need to know that there are a variety of people they can talk to about their feelings.
Children learn that there are lots of people they can talk to if they feel unsafe.
They can identify 5 trusted adults in their lives, including family, teaches etc.
Children know that if they feel unsafe and a trusted adult doesn’t listen to them, they should talk to a different one until someone does
Unit 4: Safe and Unsafe Touches
Children need to learn that there are parts of their body that should not be touched by anyone except themselves and sometimes a doctor.
Children learn that touches can be good, bad or sometimes confusing.
They know that if someone touches them in a way that is bad or confusing, they can talk to an adult. Even if they’re not sure if the touch was bad, they can find a trusted adult and discuss it with them.
Children can identify parts of their bodies in 3 categories:
Areas they feel comfortable everyone touching.
Areas they feel comfortable only some people touching (like parents or close friends).
And, areas they know no one can touch, except them
Unit 5: Secrets and Surprises
Often when children are abused, the abuser will ask the child to keep the abuse a secret. Children need to learn that adults shouldn’t ask children to keep such secrets, and if they are subject to or witness abuse, they should tell someone
Children learn the difference between a secret and a surprise, where a surprise is a special kind of secret that has an end point.
They learn that no adult should ever ask them to keep a secret about bodies/touch, both their own body or anyone else’s.
If an adult does insist the child keeps a body secret, they should tell one of their trusted adults.
Children know that they won’t get in trouble for telling body-secrets, even if the adult has said that they will.
Unit 6: Stranger Danger
For their whole lives, children will have to deal with strangers. Interactions with strangers cannot be avoided, so this lesson aims to be a guide for how to navigate interactions with strangers safely.
Children learn that not all strangers are bad, but all must be treated with caution.
Children understand know that sometimes they can ask a stranger for help, but they should not go with them; Standing in place until someone they know arrives.
Children know that groups of strangers are better than individuals. If they have to get into a car with people they don’t know (if the cultural contexts demands this, such as in Peru), they are better to wait until there are several people present. If they have to walk alone, choose busy streets over quiet ones.
Children learn to favour safety over politeness (if the cultural context expects politeness above everything in children).
Children are encouraged to talk with their parents about what they should do if someone approaches them and says their parents have sent them to collect the child; discuss a password system.
Unit 7: Road/Street Safety
In a survey of children, many reported that they feel unsafe around cars and busy roads.
Children begin getting in the habit of looking both ways before crossing a street.
They know they must be able to see THE WHOLE road in order to cross safely.
Children can identify some streets around their home or school that are very dark, and think of alternate routes in more well-lit areas.
Unit 8: Online Safety
Unlike generations before, children nowadays have access to all of the world’s information with a few clicks on a computer. But this can be dangerous as predators regularly use the internet to access children and take advantage of them.
Understand that the internet can be a valuable resource but that it can be dangerous.
Identify the difference between information about yourself that needs to be kept private (name, age, where you live etc) to information that can be shared (like, dislikes etc).
Children can apply the same principles of Unit 6 “Stranger Danger”.
Identify some examples of inappropriate communication on the internet and what to do if they come across it.
An important part of the programme also focuses on the teacher through various workshops. We want to make sure the all our teachers fully understand, not just the content of the modules, but how to deliver them to children of various ages. Some of the modules contain sensitive topics, and we want to ensure the teachers know how to approach these topics and talk about them with the students.
Expanding and Sharing the Child Safety Lessons
We have already began teaching the child safety lessons at both Picaflor House in Peru and Helping Hands in Cambodia. Additionally, we will also be sharing the modules with our other partner projects in Cambodia and Colombia . As well as sharing them with other NGOs working with children.
We want to help as many children as possible, not just those we directly interact with! Long term we also plan to work with the education departments in the countries we are present to get these materials into the school systems. The sole safety officer in Cusco's education department has already expressed a desire to work with Globalteer to help keep children safe!