Talking to Children About Sex Offenders
You may have received a notice of a registered sex offender that moved close to where you live. Maybe you are concerned because your child walks to the school bus past the home of a registered sex offender. Many parents print the map of offenders in their neighborhood before their children trick-or-treat or sell candy door-to-door for school fundraisers. Maybe you have the Safe Virtual Neighborhood App on your child’s phone. Now how do you talk to your child about sex offenders?
How do I Talk to My Kids About Sex Offenders?
Grade-schoolers can begin to understand that a person who appears nice can have hurtful intentions.
- Tell her that while most people care about children and would help them in any situation, a few people hurt children.
- Stress to her the importance of being cautious of people she doesn’t know.
- She should not walk or ride bikes in the neighborhood without adult supervision, or if old enough, she should only do so in the company of two or more friends.
- Say that a man who was in prison lives nearby.
- Use the notice to point this man out to your child and tell her to stay away from him.
Answering your Child’s Questions
Many children will accept your directions for steering clear of the person. Others will have questions. You’ll need to explain further because if you don’t, she’ll find someone else to ask. You want her to get his information from you.
Child: Why was he in prison?
Parent: He hurt a child.
Child: What did he do?
Parent: He touched the child inappropriately.
Child: Did he hit her?
Parent: No, he touched her private area, close to where she goes to the bathroom. That’s not okay, it’s a crime.
Child: Why did he do that?
Parent: Some things you won’t understand until you’re older, and this is one of them. I don’t completely understand it myself.
Even after your explanation and warning, you might need to see that an adult escorts your child and her friends home from school and you may want to keep her from roaming the neighborhood on her bicycle. If approached by the man in question, tell your child to get away quickly. She should let you know what happened when she gets home or tell an adult nearby, or if she has a cell phone, she should call you. Here are some more basic safety skills.
- Teach your child to trust her feelings and say NO and run away from a situation that doesn’t feel right.
- There are some strangers that can assist her if she needs help – other parents with children, other children, police in uniform or store clerks in the mall.
- Teach her to dial 911.
What if my Child is Contacted by a Registered Sex Offender?
Do not confront the individual. Respect the offender’s rights as a citizen. If the behavior of the individual seems inappropriate, contact your local law enforcement and inform them of your suspicion. If your child received an email or text message or Snapchat®, be sure to save it and take screen shot of it. If you received an email or post card notice about an offender, contact the local agency listed on the notice. Or call your local Sheriff’s Office. Your local enforcement will investigate for you.