The following precautions, is based on my expertise as a Criminologist; on the Prevention of Kidnappings, Sexual Assault, Child Pornography and Stalking.
Parents please talk with your children about these preventive measures. Older teens that are in the phase where it is not cool to talk with their parents may be more inclined to read this information on their own. Remember, in the end, this information is meant to protect them.
1. Check with a parent before accepting gifts/candy from strangers.
2. Tell a parent when anyone gives you gifts (older kids, family member, friends of the family, or other adults who yell you to keep it a secret).
Individuals’, who “in secret” give gifts to minors, could have the best of intentions for the child but with sex offenders, they will often ask children to keep gifts a secret, as a way of grooming the child. They will attempt to build a trusting bond so that they would be the first person that they would go to for advice, instead of their parents. With that said, if those older kids, family members, and friends of the family do have the best of intentions, then why keep it a secret?
The problem is that once the child trusts the predator (yes, friends, family members, friends of the family, etc., can be predators too); or simply befriends them, they do so by attempting to bond with the child into making them feel special in a way that their parents never could – or at least, this is what they will likely tell the child. What kid doesn’t like to receive presents? What may seem like harmless gifts and gestures could have harmful intentions long-term.
3. Check with a parent before going anywhere with anyone, especially by someone who you met online.
4. Do not feel compelled to keep secrets from parents.
5. If someone inappropriately touches you, just say “NO.” If you need to do so, then Scream at the top of your lungs, and yell “RAPE” if you need to. Hopefully, you will be in a public place so that other bystanders will hear you and come to your rescue.
If you tell the person “No;” and that they stop doing whatever it is that has made you feel uncomfortable, and they ask you not to tell your parents, then let this be the first clue that you need to tell your parents. If it is a matter of feeling safe in the moment, then tell the person that you will agree not to tell anyone else; however, as soon as you leave the person, make sure you tell your parents, a teacher, a principle, or a police officer. It is important to remember that you have done nothing wrong, even if the person attempts to blame the incident on you. You are a victim. The law states that a minor cannot consent to any type of sexual relations with any adult. Depending on the circumstances, the adult could be someone who is in their teens and as young as 17 or 18; or as old as your parents and grandparents. In the state of Missouri for example, a person is considered an adult at 17, while in the state of Illinois, 18 is the legal age for an adult.
6. Dial 9-1-1 in emergencies
7. When possible, always try to walk in well-lit parking lots and stairwells.
8. Know your full name (especially young children), phone numbers (your parents and whomever your parents have designated to be your emergency contact); know your address with zip code. If you had to call the police, or even a teacher or another adult, they may ask you for this important information. Never tell anyone your social security number and date of birth unless they are a police officer; however, if you are at a medical facility, you can tell nurses and doctors and social workers, what is your social security number and date of birth, if they ask you.
If you need to help remembering information (especially with younger children) it may be a good idea to write this information down on a piece of paper, emergency card, or listed in their cell phone – make sure that it is well hidden from strangers but easily accessible when needed.
9. Never provide personal information in online social networks, blogs, or emails and never arrange to have a physical rendezvous with online strangers, regardless of how friendly they may appear – unless, you have been given permission by your parent.
10. Make sure to report any disturbing, sexual, or frightening e-mails or text messages, to your parents. Also tell your parents if you receive any unwanted Sexting messages
11. Never allow for strangers to take photos or videos of you without your parents’ permission. If a friend of the family; older kids; or strangers tell you that they already talked with your parents and got their permission, make sure that you still wait until your parents give you permission directly. If the stranger claims that other kids have let the person take photos of them, report the person to your parent or a police officer.
12. If older adults want to be your friends on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, etc., ask your parents before approving them. They might not be who they claim to be.
13. Never let strangers see your phone numbers, address, IM (Instant Message) user id, or emails in your profiles unless they have been friended. This information needs to be made private to strangers who look at your profiles. This includes classmates who out of the blue wish to be your friend; if their behavior seems strange, talk with your parents. This could be an attempt by a classmate to Cyber Bully you.
14. Never agree to look at a stranger’s car, especially someone who has been giving your ‘secret gifts.’ Never get into the car of any stranger!
15. Never accept drinks (water, soda, lemonade, or alcohol from strangers). They could dose your drink with odorless medicines to make you drowsy and disorientated.
16. If you are at a park or a mall and you feel like you keep seeing the same person nearby, then call your parents, dial 9-1-1; or run into a store at the mall and ask a manager to call security. If you are at a park or community pool/water park and you keep seeing the same person nearby and on different occasions, then you should walk towards a large group of people; and then, call your parents, dial 9-1-1, or flag down a police officer or security. If at any time, you feel uncomfortable around someone nearby, or you feel like a stranger is staring at you or one of your friends, then call your parents, and/or the police, or simply run away even if it turns out to be a case of mistaken identity, the main idea is your safety and it is always better to be safe than . . .
17. If you are driving or riding your bike and you feel like a stranger is following you, be prepared to call the police. Do not call your parents or your friend first, because they might attempt to help you or call the police for you but; the police will be able to help you in the moment and hopefully catch the person following you. Make sure you call your parents after you have called the police and explain to them what has happened. If your parents asked why you waited to call them, just remember that often the 9-1-1 operator will ask the caller to remain on the phone until the police make contact with the caller or the alleged follower.
18. If at any time, a parent, friend, other family member; or friend of a family member tells you that you will get into trouble if you tell anyone else that they have touched you in a way that made you feel uncomfortable; or has informed you that it will be your fault if they were to get into trouble; or that you will somehow make trouble for your family — rest assure, that none of this is true! If you have been touched inappropriately, or someone has attempted to do something else to you that has made you feel uncomfortable; or has sent your flirtatious text messages, emails, or left your voice mails; just remember that you are not at fault. Make sure you tell one of your parents, another adult family member, a teacher, or a police officer.
19. Always have more than one way home. If you can, take different routes to prevent stalkers from making note of any patterns that you may have such as driving home from school or work, the same way and time every time.
20. Never give out your phone number to strangers. If someone is persistent and you feel uncomfortable giving out your number, then make up a number. If that person plans to call your phone is front of you to validate the number, then give them the correct number but after you leave them, attempt to block the number so that they cannot call you again. Many Android applications have Phone Number blocking applications for this type of situation. Also, inform your parents. If your phone does not have Android capability, then check with your phone company to see if they can block the number for you.
Always remember, safety first!!
Criminologist, Joshua B. Seth (2009-06-08). Offenders and Abuse: An Awareness Guide to Shielding the Community (Kindle Locations (7561, 7564-7571-7583) PublishAmerica. Kindle Edition. Updated information included in above suggestions.