Potential dangers for your children this holiday [Daily Monitor, The (Uganda)]
(Daily Monitor, The (Uganda) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Friends and relatives often jokingly tell new parents to build high fence walls and buy guard dogs to protect their children. When the children start to mature into dashing teenagers and young adults, it ceases to be a joke for the parents. Keeping the children safe as they go about their business in the big, bad world out there is something that gives many parents sleepless nights.
The development of technology among other things, has led to the multiplication of hazards that parents must handle with care to ensure that their children remain safe, especially during long holidays such as this one.
Be wary of cyberspaceWith the internet being accessible anywhere and on various mediums, cyberspace is one of the new dangers that parents should be watching. The advancement in technology means that mobile phones and computers are widely available and accessible to the young people. While parents have given their children these gadgets with good intentions for purposes of staying in touch and killing boredom, computers and mobile phones may very well turn into the channels that can put children in contact with questionable characters who may lead them into compromising situations unknown to their parents.
In May 2012, a 2,017-person survey funded by the online security software maker McAfee found that 70 percent of teens were hiding their online behaviour from parents. The report titled "The digital divide: How the online behaviour of teens is getting past parents" surveyed 1,013 parents and 1,004 teens between the ages of 13 and 17 and the interviews were conducted online.
The teenagers interviewed were hiding their online activity from their parents in various ways, including using an internet-enabled mobile device; using a computer that the parents don't check, creating a private email address unknown to the parents and creating duplicate or fake social network profiles, among others.
Innocence at riskWith various holiday bashes and galas, music concerts and all manner of gatherings where the teens could virtually get lost in the crowd, the risks seem to be ever present and always multiplying yet parents seem to get busier and busier with little time left to keep track of their children's interests, friendships and whereabouts.
Police spokesperson, Judith Nabakooba says the possible dangers for girls include sexual abuse in the form of indecent assault or defilement. The children need to watch where they go, but the parents also need to keep track of where their children are. Places and situations which pose a risk for sexual abuse include beaches, dark corners, and encounters with strangers. The children could also be targeted by people known to them, such as relatives. Girls may also fall prey to bad gangs in which they could end up being abused or following the bad example of other girls who are already engaged in dubious activities.
Parents need to give their children information on the dangers of taking drugs and also impress upon them that it is an illegal practice. Once in a while, the parent could also check the girl's suitcase to see what they are keeping inside. Above all, there should be free engagement between parent and child. Girls should also be taken to counseling or camps like "kisaakate".With my own children, we have open communication. I tell them about the dangers out there. I make them personal friends with whom I can share experiences. When it comes to Television, parents need to know what their children are watching; encourage informative TV programmes and videos so that the children can get some positive role models.
How can parents safeguard their childJuliet Mukose, a mother of four, one of whom is a special needs child
Children should have an idea of what their day will look like when they wake up. Give them a schedule and ensure that you supervise them. In my home, we do not have a television. My adolescent boy has very restricted access to radio and internet. I make sure that he participates in the housework. I have told him that the house maid is just a helper. As the eldest child, he has to show an example.
There is a lot of peer pressure on my son to watch certain TV programmes and visit some Internet sites. So he is always pestering for a TV, but I have said no. When we had TV, it was ruling our house and there was no discipline at all.The children get to play with board games, particularly chess, but I also want them to play outside the house. I emphasise the need to read newspapers and books. We also take them out for swimming.
My boy has a Samsung galaxy phone, but I keep it most of the time and only give it to him when I think that he is bored, or if he is well-behaved. And I monitor which sites he visits. I have his gmail password. He is not on Facebook and when he goes online, I go back to check the sites he has visited.I take the time to talk to his teachers and find out what happens at school. I follow up on who his friends are and whether they are a good influence. I have had in the past to ask him to let go of a particular friend.
Security and Safety tips that parents can pass on to their children
• Have the local contact details of police at home or where you are staying for the holidays.• Do not accept any beverage that has been opened before reaching you. Keep a constant eye on your food and beverage while socialising. Finish your beverage first before you go to talk to others nearby or go to dance.• Memorise the telephone numbers of your parents or guardian in case your own phone has been stolen or you need to use someone's phone to call for emergency help.• Make sure your parents or at least a close friend know where you are going at any hour so that if you run into a problem or if you fail to return, someone knows where to begin to search for you.• Be security conscious and alert all the time especially when you leave your home. Be alert to the behavior of strangers in your midst• Be assertive and independent; resist any negative form of peer pressure such as bad company, drinking, drug use, intimate relationships, video halls and sitting around idly gossiping. Form positive peer pressure groups such as reading clubs, sports clubs and community work.• Girls; be assertive. Do not put up with any rubbish. If a boy respects you, he will not ask you to do anything that is not good for your future.(Taken from the Uganda Police Force website)
What the expert says
Sources of dangerAccording to David Kavuma of Adonai Counselling Services, there are several sources of risks and danger to your child and television is one of them. The type of programme that the children are watching can lead to drug and sexual abuse. Peer pressure can also lead to drug and sexual abuse as well as children developing aggressive behavior. Absentee parents are also a precursor to certain behaviour in their children such as sexual and drug abuse, immoral dressing and exposure to peer pressure. This holiday season, some children may have remained home without their parents
Prevention Keeping the children safe from dangers like sexual abuse starts with imparting life skills such as critical thinking. If, for example, a child happens to watch a pornographic film, they will be able to analyse if it adds value to them or not. These life skills can be acquired from home, school, and church or even from good peers.
The children need to be taught the skill of choosing whom to relate with. Many children do not have this. If a child does not have some of these life skills, they can fall prey to many dangers.
Parents should be role models. They should walk the talk and be the kind of person they want their children to be. "I can't tell my child not to wake up late if I wake up at 11am. I would not have the moral authority to do so," says Kavuma.We need to encourage the children to associate with people of good behavior. Not all peer groups are bad. Some are good. Engage the children in some activities during the holiday time. Otherwise, the more they are idle, the more they will be vulnerable. Also, take the children to stay at a place where you are sure they have the right morals.
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