Family Safety Code Words...to use or not to use?
Safety code words can be a good tool in your family safety toolbox. Here are a few ways they can be used:
- Families can use the safety code word as a signal of danger. If a child is somewhere, maybe home with a babysitter or at a friend's house, the child can use the word in a sentence over the phone with the parents to let them know that she needs them to come right away because there is danger. An example of this would be "Hi, Miss Babysitter, we just called to say good night to little Susie, could you put her on the phone?" and when Susie gets on the phone she could say, "We're having a lot of fun, Mommy, but would you take me out for ice cream tomorrow?" If the safety code word is ice cream, the child is feeling unsafe and needs immediate help.
- Families can use the safety code word to signal a family emergency. Make a plan of what to do if the word is used, then practice the plan. For example, if the family is out together and someone ominous approaches them, a parent could say the safety code word and everyone knows that they need to immediately execute the plan. (suggested plans: scatter in different directions and find help; everyone yells at the top of their voice and runs from the danger, etc.)
- Families can use the safety code word for unplanned pick-ups. Parents who need to send another adult to pick up their child for some reason, maybe an emergency situation, can tell that adult the safety code word. Children are told that they should never go with anyone, even someone they know, unless that person knows the safety code word.
Safety code words can be effective for the first two scenarios described above, but they get more complex in the third scenario. Consider the following when deciding whether to use them for pick-ups:
- Safety code words are "one time use," meaning that the word will need to change each time it is given out to someone outside the family.
- Can your child be relied upon to keep the word a secret? Savvy predators are experts at manipulating their victims, and they have lots of ways to confuse a child and convince them that they don't need the safety code word in that moment, or to trick the safety code word out of the child. If you decide to use safety code words, do a lot of role playing with your child to practice.
- Can you be relied upon to remember the safety code word? This is an even bigger one. If the family decides that the word is "ice cream," you can bet that your child will remember it, even years later. But if you don't need to use the safety code word for anything for six, seven, eight months, will you remember it when you do need to use it in an emergency?
An alternative plan for unexpected pick-ups is to identify two or three trusted adults who are always safe to pick up your child. If they show up, your child can go with them without question. If anyone else tries to pick up, your child knows that they should be suspicious and they should verify before getting into the vehicle.
Revved Up Kids has trained tens of thousands of children to recognize dangerous people, avoid unsafe situations, and escape attackers. Our training programs are available for boys and girls in K-12th grade, for parents, and for youth serving organizations. Contact us to discuss protecting the children you love from predators and violence, 678.526.3335.