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Child Safety

Personal Safety: How and Why We Should Promote It

Research shows that young children can and should be taught personal safety skills. Prevention education is more effective if students receive comprehensive instruction that includes opportunities to practice the skills in class, multiday presentations, and materials to take home and discuss with parents.

And yes, children do use personal safety skills in real-life situations. One study found that 40 percent of children ages 10 to 16 reported protecting themselves with skills they had learned in an anti-victimization program.

We can teach general safety skills first, such as car, traffic, and fire safety. This establishes a parallel to later touching safety lessons, allowing teachers and students to get comfortable with the lesson format before tackling touching safety.

We can use a rules-based approach to personal safety, rather than a feelings-based approach. So instead of relying on their feelings as a measure of safety, children can learn to protect themselves using simple safety rules.

Some Facts About Child Sexual Abuse

Here are some reasons why teaching personal safety skills to children is so important to us:

  • The median age for reported sexual abuse victims is 9 years old (Putnam, 2003).
  • An estimated 180,500 children in the United States were sexually abused in 2005-2006 (Sedlak et al., 2010).
  • In six of every ten cases of child sexual abuse, the perpetrator is a friend or neighbor of the victim (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2010).
  • Nine out of ten children who have been sexually assaulted know their attacker (Snyder, 2000).


Putnam, F. W. (2003). Ten-year research update review: Child sexual abuse. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (42)3, 269–278.

Sedlak, A. J., Mettenburg, J., Basena, M., Petta, I., McPherson, K., Greene, A., & Li, S. (2010). Fourth national incidence study of child abuse and neglect (NIS–4): Report to Congress. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.

Snyder, H. N. (2000). Sexual assault of young children as reported to law enforcement: Victim, incident, and offender characteristics (NCJ 182990). U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/ascii/saycrle.txt

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2010). Child maltreatment 2008. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/index.htm#can

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