A few years ago, I reconnected with a friend from high school. He and I were pretty close, back in the day. We had lost touch when I moved down here, but he found me through- ya know, I don’t remember. MySpace, most likely, or possibly Classmates.com.
So for the past couple of years, we’ve talked on a fairly regular basis and he even came down here once to meet the family.
But recently I found something out about him that changes that friendship entirely. He’s a convicted child molester. And thanks to some internet detecting, I’ve found out he’s lied about several other things like his job and where he lives.
There’s nothing like finding something like that out to change how you feel about someone. Ack. It makes me remember- sexual predators look like everyone else. They can be your friend, your uncle, your pastor. They can be anyone.
How can we protect our children from sexual predators? I personally have one steadfast rule: I never let my children be alone with any male who is not directly related to me. And even then, I use caution. Number of men my children have been alone with: 2. Their dad and my dad.
But that’s not all you can do to protect your kids, and I admit that is a bit overprotective. However, you can’t be too careful. Here’s a list of 8 things you can do to protect your kids from sexual prdators:
1. Know who your friends, family, and neighbors are. If I had looked my "friend" up in a sexual offender database, I would have known years ago that he wasn’t who he said he was.
2. Know where your kids are, and who they are with. My kids don’t generally go places without me, but when they do, it is with a select group of people I really trust.
3. Talk to your kids about what kind of touching is not okay, and talk to them often about what’s going on. It is very common for kids to be molested, know it is wrong, but they feel like there’s nobody they can talk to about it, or that their parents wouldn’t care or wouldn’t believe them. Give your kids a safe forum to be able to talk about anything.
4. Heavily monitor their internet usage. My younger kids aren’t allowed to use messaging programs at all, my older son does, but I spy on him. He’s still not allowed to have MySpace, much to his chagrin.
5. Even at places that seem to be safe, like family gatherings, make sure you know where your kids are and what they’re doing. It’s easy to assume that kids are safe at Uncle Jim’s fish fry, but they just might not be. Keep watch.
6. Don’t force your kids to give hugs and kisses to people- even relatives- if they don’t want to. What kind of message does it send to your kids about their bodies belonging to themselves if they are made to give creepy Aunt Edna a hug and a kiss if they don’t want to? Give them the decision to hug or kiss someone if they’re comfortable. If they’re not, don’t push it.
7. Teach your kids the correct names for their body parts and play "What if" games with them. Give the kids scenarios and ask them what the right thing to do would be. Let them come up with their own scenarios.
8. Have a plan. We have a family password. If someone came up to them when I’m not around and said I said to come get them, that person has to know the password in order for my kids to go with them. Even if it was my best friend. Even if it was a police officer.
These days, you never can be too careful. My recent experience has illustrated that better than anything I can possibly tell you. Be careful, the world’s a scary place.