The UAE, compared to many countries, is still relatively safe for children. However HEALTH learns that it is paramount we teach our children to be on guard without ruining their innocent childhood.
Given the UAE is known to be a safe country, Dr. Rebecca Steingiesser, Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Neuropsychologist at The LightHouse Arabia points out that parents may be lulled into a false sense of security. “However, it does not preclude these things from happening to our children here,” she says. “One thing that makes kids susceptible to predation here in the UAE is that due to increased cost of living, longer working hours and jobs that involve travel, there is less opportunity for parental oversight, with nannies often having greater responsibilities to monitor children.” Often times, nannies can be overworked and at times distracted, leading to children being more vulnerable to the risk of predation.
Advice for Parents
- An important first step is to educate our children about the risks, which should be done in a developmentally appropriate manner. As the child matures, more information regarding risks and safety can be discussed. Irrespective of their age, children can become aware of the risks and of basic safety precautions they can take.
- An important factor to consider in trying creating a happy medium is to establish and maintain open communication within the home; children will be more likely to discuss such issues with parents when they feel that it would be openly accepted and appreciated.
- Parents should encourage their children (especially young children) to maintain close proximity to their caregivers at all times and have a safety plan if they get lost or feel unsafe for any reason.
- Children should memorize their address and phone number in case of emergencies.
- It is critical that parents express this information to their children in a serious, yet not in an alarming way.
It is imperative that kids notify parents if:
- They feel that they are being followed • A stranger comes to talk to them for no apparent reason
- Somebody tries to touch them inappropriately
- Somebody offers them gifts or is asking them to get into their car
- Somebody is asking them to take photos of themselves
When to Start
Dr. Steingiesser says that it is important to begin talking to your kids about these types of risks, particularly when they are old enough to begin spending time out of home. Here are some tips:
- Have conversations that are set at a developmentally appropriate level and in language they will understand.
- It is especially important to speak to children about these concerns when there becomes less need for supervision; for example, when children begin attending school, using social media, and meeting their friends at the local park.
- Whilst it is imperative that parents do have these conversations with their children, one thing to be wary of is ‘over-doing it’; as parents it is important that we do not fear-monger; that is, we should avoid speaking in ways that may cause our children to panic and become anxious about this. This is particularly important to consider when they are young and unable to rationalize the potential risk for themselves.
Other precautions we can teach our kids
- It important that when in doubt, children approach and talk to a trusted adult
- Parents should inform their children that it is essential that they report suspicious behavior noticed around the family home, school and other settings they frequent
- Parents should encourage their children to always keep their mobile phone on and to remain contactable at all times.
- Children should be encouraged to tell a trusted adult if they are concerned that a friend may be vulnerable to predation or if they have reported that anything of the sort has happened to them.
- It is critical that we teach our kids, that if they have been affected by predation in some way, they are most certainly not to blame.
Kids Should Be Cautious Not To
- Accept friend requests from people online that they do not know in real-life
- Disclose personal information –for example, home address and mobile phone numbers to people they do not know well or have not met in person
- Go places with people they do not know