Back to School Safety Checklist for Parents
Bullying, school shootings, COVID-19 outbreaks and sex trafficking are all very real fears for the parents and caregivers of today’s youth. As school kicks off around the country here are 10 things you can do to protect your child from sex trafficking:
- Basics –
Once your child is able to, they should know their parent’s names, their address and phone number by heart. Work with your child to memorize these things. This may seem trivial but if they ever need help knowing this information may be key in reuniting the two of you as fast as possible.
- Surroundings –
Teaching your child to be aware of their surroundings at all times. This will give them the upper hand in a dangerous situation. You can turn this into a game, asking your child details about things as you head into the grocery store or as you go for an afternoon walk.
- Love –
Traffickers will often use false promises of love to lure their victims. Setting a high standard of what love is, and an example of how you should give and receive love will help shape your child’s self-image and expectations of love. Teach them how to distinguish between a false love and the real thing.
Loving your child well will boost their self-confidence which makes them less vulnerable to predators. Teaching them to respond to everyone with good eye contact and confidence is a great tool for helping protect them.
- Together –
Teach your child to use the “buddy system” even as they get older. Two individuals together are less vulnerable than one alone. As they walk home from school or work make sure they have a friend to walk with.
This is a good tool for someone that is entering college as well. Walking alone on campus, especially at night put them more at risk than walking with someone.
- Recruitment –
Understand that a trafficker is not always the scary guy hiding in the shadows, sometimes they are friends, family, or your child’s peer. Knowing what this recruitment and grooming process can look like will help you identify and step in if you child is being targeted by someone wanting to exploit them.
Read this to learn more about this cycle.
- Trust –
Empowering your child to trust their gut is a key element of their safety. So often we teach children, especially girls, to be polite at all times. This means they may be polite to someone despite their body telling them to run and scream.
Give them the freedom to say no when they feel uncomfortable. This can start as easy as not requiring them to give someone a hug goodbye. If that action makes them uncomfortable give them the authority to say, “No, thank you” and opt for a high-five or something they feel comfortable with.
- Conversation –
Educate your child about sex trafficking, teach them about how predators use the internet to target young people. These conversations can be awkward for both parent and child; however, they are necessary. Here is a great resource to help get you started no matter your child’s age.
- Friends –
Know your child’s friends. Invest your time and energy into their lives and pay attention to who they are hanging out with. Simultaneously teach your young person the difference between what a real friend will ask of them and what someone who is acting like a friend but does not have their best interest in mind may ask of them. This applies to friends in real life and online friends as well. A young person rarely knows 5,000 people in real life, why do they have 5,000 Instagram followers? Establish the boundaries around online friends and hold them to it.
- Adults –
Sometimes it is easier for a young person to talk to a trusted adult in their life that is not their parents. Naturally children do not want to disappoint parents and sometimes feel more comfortable to share details of a situation with someone other than a parents. Make sure your child has trusted adults in their life. Whether it is a grandparent, aunt, uncle or your best friend, give them the freedom to speak to those adults.
- Internet –
Sex trafficking has moved online at an unprecedented scale. Traffickers use social media, dating apps, games, and other online platforms to connect with young people. Take the time to learn what apps your child is using and how to best protect them within those platforms and on their specific devices. Monitor their accounts and make sure boundaries are set in regard to their use of the internet.
This is a great start point for online safety.
The world may be a more frightening place as each year passes, however, you do not have to feel unprepared to protect your child. You are their biggest advocate and protector in all things. Lean into that and take action.