We recognize that the safety of your children is always uppermost in your mind. We have taken many additional steps in recent years to do our part in ensuring that your children will be in a safe place when they are participating in programs at Sacred Heart.
Our staff has received the required background checks and training. We have implemented curriculum to help your children recognize the steps they can take to keep themselves safe.
Our goal is to equip both you and your children with the knowledge that can help to keep them safe. This booklet is intended to present information to keep your children safe.
Sacred Heart follows the guidelines of the national Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People approved by the US Bishops and the policies of the Diocese of Worcester in screening those who work with children in our care and in helping victims of abuse find healing.
If you or someone you know has been sexually abused by a Church employee or volunteer in the past, please contact Frances Nugent, Victim Assistance Coordinator for our diocese at 508-929-4363 (direct line & confidential voicemail). If you are concerned about a current case of abuse, please contact the local civil authorities immediately.
Know the Signs…
The first step in helping a child that has been abused is learning to recognize the signs of child abuse. The presence of a single sign does not prove abuse is occurring, but a closer look at the situation may be warranted when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination.
The following signs may signal the presence of child abuse ….
Sudden changes in behavior such as:
- Your child becomes excessively clingy.
- You child cries inconsolably at the thought of being left with other adults.
- Your child has frequent accidents that result in cuts, scrapes and bruises.
- Your child is not comfortable communicating with certain people.
- Your child becomes disobedient or defiant.
- Changes in school performance
- Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes
- Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
- Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the child:
- Has difficulty walking or sitting
- Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
- Reports nightmares or bedwetting
- Experiences a sudden change in appetite
- Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
- Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if under age 14
- Runs away
- Reports sexual abuse an adult
The Web continues to change daily, to be increasingly multimedia, social and mobile. Opportunities for social networking are seemingly limitless. According to recent studies, children aged 8-12 are increasing their online presence, but are still concerned about safety, whereas teens aged 13-18 are taking more and more risks. According to a Justice Department study, one in seven children using the Internet has been sexually solicited and one in three has been exposed to unwanted sexual material. One in eleven has been harassed. What can be done to keep children safe? Parents need to be aware of what children are doing online at all times.
Social Networking Sites—What Are They?
According to Jon Gibs, senior director of media at Nielson/Net Ratings, “Social networking sites are the reality television of the Internet.” Anyone can search the site and contact a member based on the information in the profile. Information and pictures contained in the profile may not be an accurate representation of the member.
For example, members have been known to misrepresent age, physical characteristics, interests, etc. Parents must take an active role in protecting their children if these sites are used.
General Parent Guidelines
- Learn about the Internet. Ask your children to show you how they use the Internet. You will get a sense of their interest by sitting with your children and visiting their favorite sites.
- Learn how to check what your children do online.
- Learn how to use monitoring and blocking software. Be aware that even the best software can be circumvented.
- Learn what resources your computer system offers beyond monitoring software.
- Talk to your children frequently about online dangers including sexual victimization.
- Tell your children that what they see online may or may not be true.
For Parents of Children Aged 8- 12
- Keep the computer in a public place with the screen facing outward.
- Establish family rules and guidelines to include:
- no personal information given.
- no school information disclosed.
- review of pictures to be posted.
- Reinforce the dangers of and penalties for sharing personal or school information. Many schools have policies against students posting information about the school, including the school name, teacher names, etc.
- Prohibit any meeting in person with someone he/she knows only online, unless you are present.
- Inform your children that you will monitor Internet use, IM (instant messaging), Facebook, Twitter and email in order to keep them safe.
For Parents of Teenagers Aged 13-17
- Share stories using real examples of teens that have been tricked or hurt because of unsafe online practices.
- Meeting someone contacted online carries considerable risk and is not advised. If a meeting is arranged, adhere to the following:
- do not meet alone.
- go with a trusted adult
- meet in a public place.
- if not what you expected, walk away and tell a parent or trusted adult.
- Review pictures that your child wants to post.
- Do not overreact if and when you find out that your teen has done something online of which you do not approve, but correct the child.
- Reinforce the expectation that parents monitor Internet use and that safety rules must be followed.
- If your teen confides in you about something scary or inappropriate that he or she encountered online, your first response should not be to take away Internet privileges. Instead, attempt to be supportive of your child and find solutions to help prevent this from happening in the future.
Tips for Older Teens—(aged 18-19)
- Protect yourself. Keep your identity private—no name, address, school name, phone number, family or friend information should be given out or posted.
- Remember when you are online, anyone can see and read what you post. Consider who might see your online profile—friends, teachers, parents, coaches, employers, the police, the FBI AND sex offenders.
- Meeting someone contacted online carries considerable risk and is not advised.
- Be careful about pictures you post online that can make it easy for people to recognize you.
TIPS ON CELL PHONE USE
- Be careful about the pictures you take and send with your phone. Picture taken with a cell phone can be posted on the web.
- Be aware text messaging reveals your phone number to whomever you send a message.
- Know that predators can also send messages and call to arrange meetings.
- If you receive a bullying or threatening text message, report it immediately to a parent or a trusted adult.
- Your phone has caller ID. Do not answer a call from a number that you are not familiar with or not expecting.
- Parents should review their service plan to learn which features can be blocked to protect children.