By Chief Lee Tramel, Knox County Sheriff’s Office
When I sat down to put this article together, and thought about all of the issues that encompass child safety, I immediately thought about my own 11 year-old daughter. As a father, I believe it is my responsibility to ensure that she is safe, both physically and emotionally.
Our children are our most valuable asset. While I believe it is important to let them be children, I also think it’s important to educate ourselves and them about potential threats to their safety, and most importantly, ways to avoid those threats.
For example, the internet is an amazing tool that can, in fact, enhance a child’s educational experience. But the same qualities that make it such a useful and easy educational tool also leave them vulnerable to exploitation and harm. The FBI website has an excellent article about internet safety and children. Here is the link: www.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguidee.htm.
The article talks about signs that your child may be at risk from online predators. This, of course, is useful for older children. But for younger children using the internet, my advice would be to never leave them unattended, period. Always know what websites they are going to and why.
Nothing is more terrifying than the thought that your child could come to harm through either an online predator or someone closer to home. But following some simple guidelines and going over easy rules with your kids could make all the difference.
“Our children are our most valuable asset. While I believe it is important to let them be children, I also think it’s important to educate ourselves and them about potential threats to their safety, and most importantly, ways to avoid those threats.”
The most disturbing issue to any parent is child abduction/exploitation. The most important thing to keep in mind is that a child abductor/exploiter can be anyone: a relative, a friend, a neighbor, or even a stranger. Despite well-publicized incidents of stranger abduction, this accounts for only 10-15% of all abduction/exploitation cases. The vast majority are committed by someone known to the child and/or family.
The old saying that knowledge is power is true. To help prevent people from hurting your children, know who your children are with and where they are at all times. Know the people who are acquainted with your children. Know the background and character of anyone who has charge of your children such as friends, neighbors, baby-sitters, or relatives. Know your children’s behaviors and be sensitive to any changes; sit down and talk to them about what has caused the changes. Know your children’s fears; listen and be supportive when discussing them.
I take my responsibilities as Chief seriously, and one of those responsibilities is helping to educate the public about child safety issues. At the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, we do this in part by placing Child Safety Education Officers in Knox County Schools to teach elementary and middle school students throughout the year.
We are talking to your kids at school. Talk to your kids at home, using these tips and guidelines. As individual families, and as a community, it is our responsibility to protect our children. Together, we can really make a difference.
Lee Tramel is the Assistant Chief Deputy for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. During his 26 year career, he also served in the civil warrants division and as Assistant Director of the Court Services Division. Lee is a Knoxville native, where he lives with his wife and 10 year old daughter.