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There are, however, opposing views, particularly on teaching the concepts of security and safety to children through seminars or including these in the school curriculum.
For instance is Edwin Molina who says “no” to the idea of teaching the said concepts in school, having a “deep understanding of campus security being a parent, a licensed teacher, and an asset protection and business continuity consultant” himself. He explains, “First things first. They have to address first the perennial internal threat, which is bullying. Bully-victims are at the greatest risk of getting hurt emotionally or physically. News has it that some alleged bully-victims had even committed suicide. Meanwhile, by analogy to the universal security concept that ‘no two installations are alike,’ we should bear in mind that ‘no two children are alike.’ They face different threats as a matter of social, economic and scholastic circumstances. Secondly, we should consider the age of discernment, which the law recognizes, that covers most of our elementary and high school students. Sensitive security topics/concepts beyond the usual ‘don’t-talk-to-strangers’ may open a Pandora’s box for those under the age of discernment. Criminals were once students.”
Neither does he think that experts or consultants like him should hold safety and security seminars, workshops, or training to all students in school because he says it is “not for those under the age of discernment especially if the program of instruction discusses criminal Modus Operandi, which is essential to a security seminar.” He adds, “Youth adventurism and curiosity put to the test every good moral fiber there is. The fact that we send students (grade school to college) to the Guidance Office for ‘breaking the rules’ or ‘getting in trouble’ is enough evidence of their struggle to internalize right versus wrong.”
He cites an experience, “I once attended a security awareness seminar organized by the school where my children are studying. I had to stand up and challenge the security concepts (rape countermeasures) being taught by the speaker, which to me is out-of-this-world. I saw the danger in that kind of activity and further convinced that there is no substitute to parental guidance.”
Nevertheless, like Lichtenberg, he believes that it is the sole responsibility of the parents to teach these things to their children for one reason: “Because they know their children better than anybody.” He elaborates, “They know the risks that their children face. Unfortunately, not all parents are responsible. Some of them could not even perform their basic role in providing SPG (Strict Parental Guidance) to their children while watching TV or playing video games. Sometimes, criminal behavior and not security awareness is developed at home. They then act it out to a potential bully-victim at school. Parental liability then becomes a subject of discussions about torts and damages in Philippine Laws.”
Molina further says, “It is unacceptable for parents not to have quality time with their children. Even in the animal kingdom, the protector role of the parents is non-delegatable. In their absence, predators can easily hurt or kill their young ones.”
Also asked if he thinks the world is still safe for children, he says, “In general, yes.”
Ace Esmeralda of SecurityMatters also believes that security and safety matters should be taught as early as possible among children by their own parents.
Esmeralda, a Certified Protection Professional like Lichtenberg and Molina, however addresses the apprehensions of Molina on having security seminars in schools. He says, “SecurityMatters started its CampuSec and CampuSafe programs in order to spread awareness among students, parents, faculty, and school staff not only on security and safety but also on emergency responses and bullying through customized instructions, not the usual one powerpoint presentation for all levels.” He emphasizes that “these programs supplement the parental role in teaching security and safety to children.”
Even though there are opposing views on teaching the concepts in school, whether through inclusion in the school curriculum or through seminars, these experts stand on this same ground: That all parents have the responsibility to teach their children safety and security.
Tips on How to Teach Children Safety and Security
So to help parents, here are some safety and security tips—as shared by the experts—that you may teach to your children.
- Children should be taught by their parents on proper housekeeping. Poor housekeeping poses the greatest safety risk and contributes to accidents at home. Neatness and tidiness are still the primary practices to have safer environment.
- Teach your children how to walk safely on roads, sidewalks, street corners, and other thoroughfares as well as how to understand traffic signals as early as possible, even though you won’t allow them to walk by themselves yet until they’re old enough and have mastered it. One example is to put down their devices or whatever it is that’s taking their attention off the road so they can focus on assessing the road. Teach them to make eye contact (as much as possible) with drivers before crossing the street to ensure they are seen and given the safe signal to go ahead. Also, tell them to always hold your hand when crossing streets.
- If you have children who are active and sporty, don’t tell them to just sit still to be safe. Instead teach them to wear proper safety gears such as helmets when they’re biking or skating to prevent or reduce head injuries and even death.
- Children are different: Some can play it rough, while some don’t. Even if your child has no intention of hurting another, things happen because of inappropriate play behavior. Teach your children proper play behavior such as no grabbing, no choking, no pulling of clothes, and so forth, especially in public play areas.
- Come up with a fire escape plan and demonstrate to your children how and where to get out of the house or building safely, and without panicking. Practice it with the whole family.
- Teach children to never, ever play with lighters, matches, or any material that may lead to fire. In other case, tell them not to touch the fire.
- Emphasize that all sharp and point objects are hazards and should be handled with care and be kept away from injuring them and others.
- Hand washing is probably one of the very first few things parents teach their child, but the child sometimes doesn’t listen. If this happens, constantly remind them instead of the dangers of not washing their hands before eating, after playing with their toys and other playmates, or after using the bathroom.
- Teach children to chew their food thoroughly before swallowing to prevent choking. No talking or laughing as well when mouth is full with food.
- Teach them to memorize their full name, parents’ names (in some cases), home phone number, or other important numbers, and how to use the telephone or mobile phone. Otherwise, write down your contact information on a piece of paper and post it somewhere at home that’s visible to your children in case of emergencies. You may also teach them how to contact another trusted adult besides you, in case they can’t reach you easily.
- Train them to have a before-bedtime routine with you to check if all doors and windows are locked.
- When you have a baby sitter/caregiver, teach your children to tell you how their experience was with their baby sitter/caregiver and what the latter does around the house. Same goes when your child is inside the school.
- Teach your child to remember landmarks to and from your home, especially when you’re training them to walk by themselves going to the school. Tell them to be very sensitive of their surroundings and observe if any person is constantly following them. If they observe a possible follower, tell them to go to a safer place like restaurants, grocery stores, or any public facility where there are lots of people or security guards to ask for help.
- Tell them to never go into dark rooms or streets alone or with unknown persons.
- Tell them to yell, scream, or shout when they need help or when in danger.
- Teach them to always have a relative, friend, or companion when they plan to play outside the house or just go in the malls and parks. Tell them the importance of the “buddy system.”
- Besides teaching your child to not talk to strangers, which has been a constant reminder of adults for many generations, it may be a good alternative also to instead teach them when is the right time to talk or not talk to strangers as well as choosing the ‘appropriate’ strangers to talk to. Here are scenarios:
- Should an adult approach them asking for directions or for help to find a lost pet, they should be warned that this may be a trick or strategy to lure them because adults don’t normally ask the little ones for directions or help.
- Teach them to not accept anything from strangers, not even from someone they know, unless they have checked with their parents about it.
- Teach them that if someone even tries to touch, hold, or treat them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable or scared, they should say no and walk away at once, or scream or yell to call attention.
- Tell them that if ever they’re lost and need help, they should only approach people in uniform like police officers or security guards. If they can’t find men in uniform, they should approach grandparents or people with children who can possibly help. Again, remind them to trust their instincts and pray for guidance.
- Teach them also that bad persons don’t always mean people with scary or frightening appearances. Looks can be deceiving, we know, right? Many of the child abductors or molesters are, in fact, disguised to be too friendly and appealing to the young ones. That said, teach them how to assess people by their actions, not by their looks. If all else fails, tell your child to listen and follow their instincts and pray for guidance.
- The big security item in school is the not going anywhere with strangers, especially when school is out and the parent is delayed from picking them up. They need to be told that they wait and only go with mommy or daddy or whoever it is that regularly picks them up.
It’s important for parents to encourage their children to have an open communication with the family, that parents and other family members are willing to listen and talk with them about anything. Make sure though to let them know that you’re not promoting caution and control to the extremes but a balance of things, and that their safety and security remain among your primary concerns.
Share with us your own proven tips and experiences.