I'm very happy to welcome today's guest poster Kim Estes of Savvy Parents, Safe Kids. Kim is a child safety expert with 15 years of experience educating parents who works tirelessly to help us keep our kids safe. Today she explains why tweens are at high risk for crime and what their parents can do to help keep their tween as safe as possible.
Inexperience + eagerness= compromised Tween safety.
As our children enter their tweens, they are spending more time away from us. This is a normal and healthy part of growing up. Yet Tweens are at the highest risk for crime. Why? Tweens are not as heavily supervised as young children but do not have the experience that their older teen counterparts have. Tweens are also more likely to be searching for their “identity” or easily taken in by what they might believe is “romance”. Sexting is also a growing problem with young Teens and Tweens. Tweens are eager to fit in with their peers and explore their expanding world. They are navigating a whole new world of risks and often with little or no understanding of healthy boundaries or red flag behaviors to be on the look out for.
Tweens are not in their right minds!
The “CEO of the brain” AKA: the prefrontal cortex (located just behind the forehead) is in charge of controlling, planning, memory, organization, and modulating mood. Too bad that entire area of the brain is under construction in Tweens. As the prefrontal cortex matures, older teens learn to reason better, develop more control over impulses and make judgments better. But in Tweens, this area is still developing and growing so until the prefrontal cortex matures your Tween is getting signals from the amygdala, which is located deep in the brain, rather than the frontal cortex. The amygdala leads to impulsivity, or what researchers label "risk-taking behavior."
Practice your elevator speech: Talking to your tween about personal safety
So how does a parent protect their child but still encourage normal growth and independence during these tween years? As parents, we want our Tweens to be safe. It is a struggle to balance safety while nurturing and adapting to their growing independence. Some simple pointers for parents:
- Don’t use scare tactics or threats of punishment
- Keep it positive
- Be a good listener
- Be creative… use text and email to get your message across.
- Talk about real life “What –if’s”
- Talk about setting healthy boundaries
- Define what “job roles” are (e.g. Coaches job is teaching game rules not help you change clothes)
- Share your own experiences about how you handled a personal safety issue
- Initiate safety conversations. Don’t expect your child to.
- Short, simple conversations on a consistent basis are extremely effective
When to be concerned: Warning signs in your tween
Predators go to great lengths to “fly under the radar” and remain undetected. Predators are masters of communication. A predator will use attention and flattery to engage the child’s interest or may use threats against the child to keep their actions secret. Tweens, by nature, can be moody and secretive at this age… but if things seem out of the “normal” range of tween behavior, or the onset behavior is sudden, you many need to take a closer look at what is happening. Some signs that may indicate that something is amiss if your child
- Is being secretive about e mails, phone calls, or where they are going
- Suddenly has advanced sexual knowledge
- Suddenly seems depressed
- No longer wants to attend school or activities that they normally enjoy
- Suddenly refuses to spend time with a particular person
- Suddenly wants to spend all their time with a particular person
- Has items (IPod, games, jewelry, etc) that you do not know where they came from
Grooming the parents:
Predators can be anyone… a man, a woman, an older teen. It is important for parents to understand that predators gain access to your child through you. As parents you are the eyes and ears for your Tween. Pay attention to your “gut” and look for consistent patterns in red flag behaviors such as someone who
- Consistently insists upon arranging to spend alone one on one time with a particular child
- Shares inappropriate information with the child (that normally would be shared with adults)
- Seems preoccupied with a particular child
- Seems “too good to be true”
- Insists on physical contact even when the child does not want the physical contact
- Refuses to allow the child to set his/her own limits
- Frequently walks in on tweens while using the restroom or changing
- Makes inappropriate comments about the Tweens changing body
It is important for parents to not dismiss their gut feelings or dismiss red flags because of a person’s age, their relationship with your family or that person’s social status. Boys and girls are nearly at identical risk for abuse. If your gut is telling you something does not seem “right” that is your instinct talking to you and letting you know you need to take a closer look at what is going on.
About the Author: Kim Estes is the owner of Savvy Parents Safe Kids and has worked with parents for over 15 years, educating them on various parenting topics. Kim is a certified prevention educator through the National Security Alliance, the Kid Safe Network and is a Darkness 2 Light facilitator. As a Child Safety Expert, Kim has appeared on local and national TV and Radio shows, helping to raise awareness on the importance of prevention education. For more information about her work or to schedule a workshops go to www.SavvyParentsSafeKids.com
About the Author: Kim Estes is the owner of Savvy Parents Safe Kids and has worked with parents for over 15 years, educating them on various parenting topics. Kim is a certified prevention educator through the National Security Alliance, the Kid Safe Network and is a Darkness 2 Light facilitator. As a Child Safety Expert, Kim has appeared on local and national TV and Radio shows, helping to raise awareness on the importance of prevention education. For more information about her work or to schedule a workshops go to: www.SavvyParentsSafeKids.com. You can find her on Twitter and Facebook, too.