Safety Planning Tips for Youth
Prevail works to reduce youth’s experiences of crime and abuse by providing information about safety to families. Our definition of safety expands to areas past just physical protection to include emotional, sexual, and internet safety. In these cases, knowledge is power.
Youth are constantly surrounded by technology, with easy access to the internet via phones, tablets, video game consoles, and computers. At Prevail, we know that there are tremendously beneficial aspects to this connection to information, but this also comes with some challenges.
- Ensure your privacy settings on all social media websites are set to the highest level, restricting the amount of information available to be found.
- Reduce the amount of personal information you share online, especially with strangers and acquaintances.
- Just because you delete something off your computer, does not mean it disappears. Posts, pictures, and messages can live forever online.
- Be cautious using apps like Snapchat. Things can be saved by the receiver of those messages and they never truly go away.
- Anonymity can never be guaranteed online. Do not chat with someone you do not know.
- Do not meet someone in person that you met online without discussing safety with an adult you trust. Never meet them alone.
- Threats, harassment, and intimidation can occur online and can carry the same consequences as if those incidences happened in person. If you are posting these things, you can face penalties. If things are posted about you, please notify an adult so appropriate action can take place.
- Place computers in shared spaces, like family rooms or kitchens, to increase supervision. Create house rules that tablets, game systems, and cell phones are used in shared spaces and are turned off and placed outside of bedrooms at night.
- It is important to discuss these concerns with your family, highlighting the importance of telling an adult if anything concerning is experienced while online. We provide education about technology safety with all clients, as we see a growing gap between what is understood about technology and what youth are doing online.
While parents try to ensure their child is in situations where they will not experience inappropriate sexual contact, there is no way to guarantee the actions of others. At Prevail, we feel that educating youth in the following areas will help them understand the safety concerns regarding their body and empower them to share concerns if they arise.
- Teach your children the medical terms for their private areas. You and your children need to be comfortable saying ‘breasts’, ‘vulva/vagina’, ‘penis’, and ‘anus’ so they have the words to talk about their body parts in a way that others understand.
- Communicate to your children that their body belongs to themselves and they have the right to tell someone “No” if a touch makes them uncomfortable, whether it is a hug, tickling, or a touch of a sexual nature. No matter who touches them.
- Ensure your children understand that sharing or viewing nude pictures online is never safe and if they are asked for or if they see these images they are to tell you immediately.
- Explain the difference between a ‘secret’ and a ‘surprise’. Surprises like a birthday gift are okay to keep to yourself, but a secret like being touched in a way that makes you uncomfortable is not safe to keep.
- If your child discloses that they have been touched in a way that makes them uncomfortable, remain calm. Ask open-ended questions, but do not push for information. Contact local law enforcement or Department of Child Services (Indiana number: 1-800-800-5556) to report the information and determine next steps. Praise your child for telling you and communicate to them that they are not in trouble and you are not angry at them for telling.
- These topics may be uncomfortable to discuss with your child, but it is important for children to have an understanding of this information so they can protect themselves and communicate their experiences with you in a way that everyone understands.
At Prevail, we refer to emotional safety as protecting our thoughts and feelings from being hurt by others.
- Identify a positive influence in your life that can be a support person for you.
- Get involved in activities that bring you joy, like a hobby, sport, or club.
- Feel confident in what you think and feel. Everyone’s feelings and thoughts are different.
- Understand that all of your feelings are okay. It is what you do with them that counts.
- Stand strong in your beliefs. If someone does not support you, you do not have to continue to talk to them.
- Learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships, as well as red flags and inequality in relationships. Understanding this information will help you understand what to look for when getting to know a new person.
Physical safety involves protecting your body from being hurt and reducing the likelihood you are in a situation where harm could occur.
- Call 911 if you are in an unsafe situation.
- Avoid getting in the middle of a fight.
- Stay out of small spaces, like closets, where you could become trapped.
- Tell a safe adult if you have been hurt by another person.
- Keep your cell phone charged so you can always make a call.
- Pack a bag with essentials (clothing, shoes, bank cards, identification) in case you need to leave somewhere quickly.
No one has a right to hurt you or put you in fear. If you have or are currently experiencing any threats to your safety, an advocate can help you. Assistance is just a phone call away.