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5 Safety Rules – Spot Red Flags

Last Week we began a blog series based on the 5 Safety Rules, the foundation of our MBF Child Safety Matters Prevention Education Programs:

– MBF Child Safety Matters for students in grades kindergarten through five

– MBF Teen Safety Matters for students in grades six through eight

– MBF Child Safety Matters Is Cool After School for students in grades kindergarten through eight in after school programs and youth serving organizations

This week’s focus is on the second of the 5 Safety Rules, Spot Red Flags. Our MBF Child Safety Matters prevention education programs help children learn to identify potential Red Flags and how to talk to their Safe Adults to help keep them safe. Whether you are a parent or a professional caring for children, it is also important for you to know how to Spot Red Flags to help protect the children in your life.

Spotting Red Flags means developing an awareness of warning signs that may be an indicator that something is unsafe. Here are some Red Flags you need to be aware of, and some resources you may find helpful.

 

Red Flags a Child May be the Target of Bullying:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or damaged clothing, books, electronics, jewelry, or other belongings
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or pretending to be ill to avoid school
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating
  • Comes home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch
  • Difficulty sleeping/nightmares
  • Declining grades or lost interest in schoolwork
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoiding social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide

 

Red flags a Child May be Bullying Others:

  • Getting into physical or verbal fights
  • Has friends who bully others
  • Is increasingly aggressive
  • Gets sent to the principal’s office or to detention frequently
  • Has unexplained extra money or new belongings
  • Blames others for their problems
  • Does not accept responsibility for his/her actions
  • Is competitive and worries about his/her reputation or popularity

Bullying Resources:

  1. http://stopbullying.gov/
  2. http://solutionsforbullying.com/
  3. http://pacer.org/bullying/

 

Red Flags a Child May be the Target of Cyberbullying:

  • Receives an excessive amount of email or text messages
  • Spends large amounts of time online, especially at night or when alone
  • Anxious or nervous about receiving texts, instant messages, or emails
  • Quickly exits computer or cell phone when parent or caregiver approaches
  • Unwilling to share information about online activities
  • Unexplainedanger or depression, especially after going online
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Doesn’t want to go to school
  • Unexplained stomach aches or headaches
  • Trouble sleeping at night
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Suicidal thoughts orsuicide attempts

Cyberbullying Resources:

  1. http://resources.uknowkids.com/blog/bid/173713/10-Signs-Your-Child-is-a-Cyberbullying-Victim
  2. www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying
  3. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/cyberbullying.html

 

Red Flags a Child May be the Victim of Abuse:

Physical Abuse

  • Injuries and explanation of injury do not match
  • Fearful, angry, or sad
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Fearful of adult contact or avoids a particular parent or caregiver
  • Decline in grades/lack of interest in school
  • Nervous, withdrawn, clingy, tries to please caregiver
  • Hostile, aggressive, violent, self-destructive
  • Complains of soreness/physical or psychosomatic illness
  • Shows little or no emotion when hurt

Emotional Abuse

  • Demanding, needy, attention-seeking, overly compliant
  • Oppositional or destructive behavior
  • Delinquent or criminal activity
  • Unfriendly, distant, or poor peer-relations
  • Anxiety, sleep disorders
  • Low self-esteem, depressed, suicidal
  • Delayed physical or cognitive development
  • Speech difficulties or disorders
  • Habit disorders (sucking, rocking, biting)
  • Eating disorders, ulcers
  • Flat affect/shows no emotion

Sexual Abuse

  • Withdrawn, depressed, threatened by physical contact
  • Premature knowledge of sex, seductive behavior
  • Sexual acting out, excessive masturbation
  • Low self-esteem, lack of confidence
  • Sudden change in weight
  • Change or decrease in school performance
  • Uncontrolled emotions, secrecy
  • Anxiety, sleep difficulties, nightmares, and/or other fears
  • Regressed behaviors (speech, bedwetting)
  • Adolescents: self-mutilation, eating disorders, promiscuity

Child Abuse Resources:

  1. http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/child-abuse.html?ref=search
  2. In Florida, every citizen is a mandatory reporter. If you suspect abuse, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline to make a report at 1-800-96-Abuse/22873. In other states, adults should report all suspicions of abuse to their state’s child welfare agency. Visit www.childwelfare.org/ organizations for contact information.

 

Red Flags a Child may be in an Unhealthy Relationship:

  • Extreme jealousy or possessiveness by a partner (or demonstrating this themselves)
  • Unexplained marks or bruises
  • Emailing or texting excessively
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Loss of interest or participation in extracurricular activities or other interests
  • Stops spending time with friends and family
  • Dressing differently

Relationship Abuse Resources:

  1. www.joinonelove.org
  2. www.loveisrespect.org
  3. National Teen Dating Violence Hotline 1-866-331-9474 (1-866-331-8453 TTY) or Text loveis to 22522

 

When Spotting Red Flags, it is important to remember the presence of red flags does not prove abuse, neglect, or bullying is happening, however, they MIGHT indicate some type of victimization is occurring, and it is wise to seek more information. It is also important to remember that warning signs of abuse, neglect and bullying vary from child to child.

It is also important for children and youth to learn prevention strategies to help protect themselves from all types of victimization. Check with your child’s school to see what type of prevention/safety program they may be using. If they are not using a program, encourage them to learn more and use MBF Child Safety Matters™ for elementary schools, MBF Teen Safety Matters™ for middle schools, and MBF Child Safety Matters Is Cool After School for after-school and other youth-serving organizations.

MBF also offers parents, professionals, and concerned community members a variety of resources to help protect children.

  • Visit our websites, mbfchildsafetymatters.org and www.polyvictimization.org to learn more about child victimization and how to better protect the children in your life.
  • Download the “Child Safety Matters” app at no cost from the App Store or Google Play to learn about the 5 Safety Rules and how to become a champion for children.
  • Visit childsafetymattersedu.org to take any of our free, one-hour online courses to learn more about pertinent topics related to child safety:
  • Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse/Neglect
  • Real World Safety: Protecting children online and off from bullying, cyberbullying, and digital abuse
  • Protecting Children from Child Sexual Abuse

As a concerned parent, professional, or community member, it is important to know the 5 Safety Rules that will help you protect children. Now that you Know What’s Up and Know how to Spot Red Flags, stay tuned next week to learn how to Make a Move with Safety Rule #3.