There has to be something about children that makes it near impossible for grown-ups to not feel some level of responsibility towards them. It doesn’t matter if that particular adult is related to them or not. When it comes to children, the instincts to protect, nurture and help are always there. For instance, most women report feeling some connection (emotional not just biological) between them and their unborn babies during pregnancy. Another proof of this lies in the fact that you probably have memories of at least one time when you went out of your way to help a child cross the road, get to an address, reach for an object and generally keep him/her happy and safe. These feelings are natural as the issue of child safety is not just the responsibility of parents alone but that of the adults around them.
What is child safety?
The concept of child safety has been defined by Encyclopedia Britannica as “an area concerned with limiting children’s exposure to hazard and reducing children’s risk of harm”. It’s important to note that, legally, a child is anyone under the age of majority and according to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that age is 18. Knowing this will make understanding and using the information we’ll be sharing in this guide easier. Children are generally adventurous and trusting, a combination that predisposes them to accidents and abuse. Now, while we try to keep them from harm, we also have to be careful to avoid ruining their childhood and this can be a daunting task, especially if you’re using a single approach.
What does it involve?
Child safety is a multifaceted concept that requires multiple approaches to succeed.It’s a deliberately designed system that involves the creation of safe environments, talking to kids about what’s safe and what’s not, educating adults about risks and even the implementation of child-friendly policies. Lest we forget, there’s also technology and the internet and the roles they play in the exposure of kids to new experiences and the potential threats they pose to kids’ safety.
Now, we know that getting on top of these things isn’t exactly easy as parents, guardians and caregivers often have a lot of things on their minds and some things tend to go unchecked, undone or unnoticed. However, we’re hoping that this guide to child safety will give you the knowledge you need to be better at keeping your kids out of harm’s way – after all, you’re their very own super hero. So read on to find out what you’re doing correctly and what you can start doing about your child’s safety.
Child safety measures
Remember what we said about child safety being a multifaceted concept? Well, it’s because there are a number of ways can a child’s wellbeing can become threatened and there are just as many measures that can be put in place to prevent them. Let’s take a look some of these measures, shall we?
Be a parent
Having children isn’t all there is to being parents. To be a parent, in the context of this article, is to be responsible for a child’s wellbeing – emotional, mental, physical and social – and this demands that you pay attention to your kids and their interests. While being a “cool” parent seems to be growing in popularity, you have to realize that you’re first your children’s parent before you are their friend or buddy. Pay attention to what they’re getting up to, online and offline. If you notice any adult or teenager paying unusual attention to your child, keep an eye on them to ensure nothing untoward is happening or happens.
Spend time with your kid(s), ask questions about their schoolwork, favorite teachers and pastime and listen.
- Juggling work and other responsibilities can be demanding on your time so do not hesitate to get help. However, it’s important to do a background check on whoever you’re entrusting your child to (more on this later).
- If your daily routine is demanding, try dedicating small chunks of your day to your kids, it may be 20 minutes, 30 minutes or more. Julie Morgenstern, an organizational expert, found this to be a more rewarding way for parents to connect with their kids. Ensure that he/she has your complete attention during that period and maintain the practice daily. You can read stories, watch TV or go on a walk together. This gives both of you something to look forward to each day.
- Invite your child’s friend(s) over and have them do their homework together. This will afford you the close-up opportunity to observe how your kid interacts with other kids, get to know his/her preferences in company and build a network with the parents of your child’s friends. This can come in handy when you need reliable hands to watch over your child – you’ll have to respect and not abuse this though.
Doing all these will create the environment for your children to talk to you about anything. It’ll also make it easier to educate them on potential safety risks like talking to strangers, places to avoid and what to do if they find themselves in uncomfortable situations.
Child Safety on the Road
According to a World Health Organization fact sheet, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death for children and young adults. And when we consider the fact that there are quite a number of cases that go unreported, we can’t help but shudder. What can we do to ensure that are children are safe on the road? We have collected a few tips for you so let’s go.
- Children that are less 12 years old or weigh less than 29 kg shouldn’t ride in the front seat. This is because airbags can – and have – killed children.
- Older children should always use their seat belts.
- Teach older kids to put their phones aside when they’re on the road. It can distract them from paying attention to their environment.
- Never drive with a child on your laps.
- Kids should always wear a helmet when they’re riding their bicycle. This protects their heads in the event of a crash or fall.
- Never drive with babies in the front seat, even if they’re being carried by an adult. The back seat is safer for babies and young children.
- Use rear-facing car seats for babies, forward-facing car seats and booster seats for kids between the ages of 4 – 6 and 7 – 9 respectively.
- Teach your children the importance of traffic signs and their meanings. You should also teach them to look left, right and left again before crossing the road.
- Teach them to use pedestrian bridges and to never walk against oncoming traffic.
- Finally, lead by example. Let them see you doing these things as children are naturally copycats.
Choking and Poisoning
Babies and children under the age of 3 have this exasperating tendency to put things in their adorable little mouths. This increases their chances of getting hurt by poisonous or toxic substances. They also have increased chances of choking on objects, thanks to their smaller upper airways, comparative inexperience with the fine art of chewing and that tendency of theirs we spoke of earlier.
Let’s show you some numbers, hopefully, they’ll drive home this point. According to a report we found on the World Health Organization website (WHO) titled “Children and Poisoning”, acute poisoning caused over 45,000 deaths in children and young people under the age of 20 in 2004 alone. The same report also noted the rate of fatal poisoning was highest in children under 1 year of age and non-fatal poisonings was more common in 1 – 4-year-olds.
In a February 2020 interview with Punch Newspaper, Ayo Akoleaje, a UK trained medical doctor, defined choking as “any difficulty or inability to breathe due to partial or total obstruction of the airway”. An article on the New York State Department of Health’s website states that kids below the age of 5 are more likely to suffer from choking-related injuries and death. It also says that over 12,000 US children are treated for food-choking injuries every year. A choking incident may not necessarily lead to a child’s death but it can cause breathing difficulties and chest infections. This, apart from making the child uncomfortable, may predispose the child to other medical conditions in the future.
The following tips may prove helpful in keeping your kids safe from choking and poisoning incidents.
- Keep things like beads, buttons, batteries and other small objects away from babies and toddlers.
- Children should be encouraged to sit still while eating to avoid bits of getting into windpipe.
- Store creams, medications, cleaning solutions, detergents, insecticides and other toxic substances in locked cupboards or kept out of their reach.
- Avoid force-feeding babies.
- Adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations on toys. You can read our post on toy safety for more on this.
- Keep strings, cords of window blinds and nylon bags away from babies and toddlers as they present strangulation and suffocation risks.
- As much as possible, avoid taking medications in the presence of your kids as they may want to mimic you one day.
- Children need constant supervision, there’s no getting around it. Don’t leave them unattended.
Abductions and Crime
Children are often the victims of crime. You must have seen stories of child trafficking, kidnapping and missing children on the news or heard it in your neighborhood. Most times, the victims of child-abduction crimes are victims of opportunity. The kids may have lost their way and walked into the wrong places or went with the wrong people. Sometimes, the children are kidnapped for ransom – which is often the case with planned kidnappings. At other times, kids are abducted and trafficked to places far from their homes. may be sold off as under aged labor or sex workers and they generally become victims of abuse.
Child Sexual Abuse
Child molestation or child sexual abuse is another common crime against kids. In this situation, an adult or adolescent uses a child for his/her own sexual pleasure. Child sexual abuse takes several forms. A female child can be molested by an older male or female and a male child can be molested by an older male or female. There’s also child-on-child sexual abuse where a child is sexually abused by another child or teenager. There mustn’t necessarily be sexual contact for an incident to be qualify as child molestation; taking nude or inappropriate photos of/with a child, exposing them to sexual images and exposing one’s nudity to a child are all instances of child sexual abuse.
Crimes against children aren’t always perpetrated by strangers. There have been cases where nannies, school/daycare staff, domestic help and staff have been indicted as abductors. They have also been incidents where such people commit acts of violence against children. So, what can you do to reduce the chances of your child becoming a victim?
- Teach you kids to scream and run away from danger (the screaming may draw attention to the danger they’re in).
- There should be at least one supervising adult at children’s gatherings, excursions, field trips and picnics.
- Teach your kids, early in life, about body parts and set boundaries. Teach them that some of those parts are private and only you, their parent, are allowed to see those parts. Let them know that anyone else who touches them in those parts is dangerous and that they shouldn’t keep such experiences to themselves.
- Listen to your kids when they tell you that they don’t want to spend time with certain adults or kids. Discuss their reasons with them.
- Ask for and verify history of individuals before employing them as babysitters, nannies, domestic or school staff. It may seem like a lot of work but we all know that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Plus, you’d be able to help the police better should the need arise – hopefully, it won’t.
- Take advantage of technology. There’s a lot of awesome tracking tech on the market today. They include programs or software that help parents watch over their kids even when they’re in different places. The Keep Me Safe app does that and even lets you listen in on conversations.
- Give your younger kids names of people with whom it’s safe to interact with in your absence. Saying “don’t talk with strangers” can be confusing; it’s easy to wonder if the guy who works in the garage where you fix your car is a stranger or not.
- Teach your children to observe their surroundings and to walk confidently as distracted children are easy catch for predators.
- Have younger kids memorize important phone numbers and addresses. It’s easier for them to be get help when they have these numbers at hand.
Child Safety Online
The internet provides a quick and easy way to explore the world. And kids just love those new experiences. They also get to socialize as they meet new people and learn about other cultures. While these opportunities are great, we cannot overlook the fact that it also exposes kids to cyberbullying, invasion of privacy, harassment, malware, phishing, sexual and illegal content.
Teenagers have higher risk
When it comes to exposure to dangers online, teenagers are most at risk because they have more unsupervised screen time than younger children. A Pew Research Centre survey conducted in 2018 revealed that 59% of American teens have been victims of cyberbullying. Their being able to join social media platforms, online fora and discussions are predispose them to bullying and harassment online. An analysis by NCMEC showed that the average age for kids experiencing one form of online enticement or the other is 15. It also found that 82% of the time, the enticers were male.
Video games and online gaming can provide great quality socialization for your kid. They get to interact and compete with other kids with similar interests. However, it’s important you understand they can also expose kids to online predators.
Exposure to these sort of child safety dangers online can cause anxiety and constant checking of phones. A reluctance to spend as much time on their devices as they used to might another indicator of a problem. A sudden change in behavior, secrecy, failing grades, avoiding of social activity with their peers are some other signs. It’s important that you’re able to keep your kids safe even as they do their stuff online; these tips should help you do just that.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Your child should know that they can always come to you for help with whatever makes them uncomfortable online.
- Set and discuss safety rules with them. They’re more likely to keep them if they take part in creating them.
- Tell your kids to always keep their passwords secret and their devices personal. Their personal information, like addresses and phone numbers, shouldn’t be shared with strangers online.
- Activate filters and privacy features on your kids’ devices. This keeps inappropriate search results from coming up, your kids out of inappropriate sites and their privacy secured.
- Track your child’s search history. You can do this remotely with tracking or monitoring apps or you physically can go through their phones and computers.
- Make your kids understand the importance of online etiquette, the dos and don’ts of communicating online.
As much as we wish that all the child safety measures and precautions available are enough to guarantee that our kids are always safe, we have to live the fact that wishes aren’t horses, crimes, accidents and injuries may still happen. However, preparing yourself and your child(ren) for any of such eventualities may be all that makes the difference between happy endings and sad ones.
Understanding that as kids grow older, their potential safety risks change will help you stay one step ahead in preparation for those changes. Remember, you’re the very own super hero.