KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 — Just how many parents have taken the trouble to teach their children on personal safety in open space – inside and outside school, on the road – or while surfing the Internet?
And just how many parents have taught their children to say “no” to any stranger’s request?
Maybe a few of may have done it but most have left their children”s safety in the hands of the school authorities, school van drivers, police and the community and only end up regretting when something bad happens to their children.
In the borderless world of today, real danger not only come from the real world but also in the virtual world that serves as the social conduit of the younger generation of today.
Many children today suffer from violence, physical threats, verbal abuse, threatening gestures, sexual harassment and even racial vilification.
HEIGHTEN AWARENESS ON HARM
Thus many parents have made numerous proposals in ensuring their children”s safety including allowing their children to carry cell phones to their school so that their whereabouts could be monitored.
Nonetheless, the government maintained the prohibition on cell phones in schools following studies carried out on the gadget”s effects on students and teachers.
“Looking at the present day scenario, cell phones are not suitable in schools,” said Personal Safety Consultant and a committee member of the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation (MCPF), Master Saiful Hamiruzzaman.
Children who have just started schooling are naive and they are not taught of the right way to use cell phones especially in filtering the calls, messages and applications.
“It is feared that instead they may misuse the handphone leading to negative implications.
“On the other hand, public phones should be made available in schools to enable students to contact their parents when necessary,” he said to Bernama recently.
Cell phones may otherwise prove to be a menace as it could distract students from their studies and their use exposes students to many vulnerabilities including crime.
“Remember, thieves also look out for hand phones,” he reminded parents.
As for Saiful, there are many other ways that the school authorities and parents can consider to prevent harm to their children.
“This include ensuring that only school vans or parents send and pick up their children.
“The most important thing to be emphasised is creating awareness on their safety and teaching them how to save themselves from harm,” he said.
GET TO KNOW THE “STRANGER”
Exposing children to personal safety starts right from home and as early as four years of age when children are sent to nurseries or kindergartens.
The first thing that a child should know is to keep away from strangers.
“Explain who are these strangers. Explain to them that they should be beware of strangers,” he stressed.
As children are naive they are not able to differentiate between a person that they can trust or a person who could pose threat to them.
“As parents, they should let know their children on who they should place their trust – parents, family members, teachers, close friends, their maid and police,” he said.
The other precaution that the children can consider is stay in groups and avoid walking alone inside or outside the school compound. This can help children keep away from harm.
Apart from that, let the children know that they should not get too close to persons that they don”t know and make sure they stay at least four feet away from them.
Never tell to strangers your name, or impart your phone number or address and if intimidated get away fast or scream.
“Teach the child to scream in the right manner. It is more effective to cry Fire ! Fire ! Fire ! to attract attention than just shouting Help! Help! Help!,”
Children should be made to remember important numbers and details useful in times of emergency like the parent”s and teacher”s contact number and the home address, he said.
Parents should also stress on their children that they convey to them or their teachers or close friends on any incident that can potentially be harmful.
“Always remind the children that they should never allow anyone to touch their body and not to panic. Instead they have to be more alert of their surroundings and the people around them,” he said.
PROTECTING CHILDREN FROM CYBER CRIME
Saiful noted that one of the major present day concern is cyber crime that happens across all ages – children, teenagers, adults and even senior citizens.
In Malaysia alone, at least two cyber crimes are detected every hour and at least one million people fall prey to cyber crimes daily or 14 people each second.
Cyber crimes against children has been rising year after year all over the world with the harm coming in many ways – phonographic content, cyber bullying, threat and even cyber infatuation that has led to murder.
“Parents should monitor seriously their children”s activities while surfing the Internet especially those still in the children and teenage age bracket.
“They are still immature thus they could be easily influenced and enticed to impart their confidential information by cyber criminals.
“It is time for cyber awareness to be incorporated in the education system starting right from the primary school.
“The present day generation is exposed to information technology since young. Now, even two year olds know how to use Ipad, Iphone, Tab, and they are quick to grasp the latest technology,” he said.
STEPS TO BE TAKEN BY PARENTS
Parents can monitor their children surfing Internet by becoming their friend at the social website. This will help them to know who their children are interacting with or befriending.
Always remind your children not to reveal their identity and information like name, home address, school name or their phone number in chat sites.
“Never give your picture to anyone that you don”t know through the cyberspace or without the parents” permission as the pictures can be altered and used for criminal intent,” he said.
Apart from that, parents too should remind their children to avoid responding to messages that are impolite, lewd, threatening in nature and never accept invitation to meet a stranger without informing parents or guardians beforehand.
Emphasise to the children that each time after using the web cam, they should log out as there are people who could hack into the computer while using web cams like Skype and etc.
“This creates risk as the children”s actions can be recorded and the pictures can spread fast through Internet,” he said.
Parents have to filter the Internet content to prevent their children from being exposed to phonographic or gambling sites, sites that use foul language or others.
Parents can also opt for parental controls in the system that allows children to surf for a limited time period and block unhealthy sites to facilitate monitoring by parents.
“Apart from that parents too should go to websites visited by their children to keep track of their children”s activity at the cyber realm,” he said adding that in the world without borders cyber threats can come from people living thousands of miles away or just next to us.