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Keeping Kids Safe: More than Helmets and Sunscreen

PHOTO: Youth football practice. Photo credit: Deborah Smith
PHOTO: Youth football practice. Photo credit: Deborah Smith
June 11, 2012

BOISE, Idaho - Summer vacation is here for Idaho's school children, and it's time for parents to give them safety messages, ranging from wearing bike helmets and seatbelts to preventing child sexual abuse. Maureen Durning with the Idaho Association for the Education of Young Children teaches workshops to help parents understand that sex-abuse prevention should be just as routine as making sure kids wear sunscreen.

"We should be responsible about keeping our children safe from sexual abuse in the same way that we keep them safe from all sorts of things."

That prevention focuses first on reducing the risk. In 90 percent of cases, the abuser is someone the family and child know and trust, she says, so minimizing one-on-one adult/child situations results in fewer opportunities for abuse. In the summer, when children often take music or sports lessons or attend camps, Durning urges parents to let teachers and organizers know they may drop in at any time - and then do it. Parents also should watch for situations where older kids are in charge of younger ones, and they should require that multiple adults supervise, she adds.

The bottom line is that it is adults' responsibility to prevent child sexual abuse, Durning says. She asks parents to imagine how hard it would be for a child to say "no" to a figure of authority, and she tells them that one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. Durning calls that "inspiration" to become proactive.

"Some people can be very uncomfortable talking about it. But it's like anything else: As you practice it, as you say the words, it becomes easier and easier."

Finally, she says, if you have a suspicion, trust your instinct. Suspend the lessons or activities and report the suspected incident.

Child sex abuse prevention tips are available at http://www.d2l.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - ID