Empower children with body-safety skills

The news of a six-year-old boy allegedly touching his female classmate inappropriately at a pre-school is unfortunate ("Probe into alleged improper touch at childcare centre"; Tuesday).

In line with Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Singapore Children's Society firmly believes that every child has the right to be informed about sexual abuse prevention.

Children could, and should, be taught body-safety skills at a very young age.

With the right materials and approach, parents and educators can facilitate this teaching.

Acting on this conviction, the Children's Society has been running KidzLive: I Can Protect Myself in pre-school centres throughout Singapore, on request, since 2011.

The programme aims to enable five- and six-year-old children to:

•Identify the private body parts of boys and girls, and the proper terms of these parts. • Know that no one should see or touch their private body parts; they should also not see or touch other people's private body parts.

This is to allow children to develop a healthy respect for their bodies, as well as those of others.

•Recognise good and bad touches, as well as right and wrong actions; sexual abuse can be non-contact too, for example, showing pornographic material to a child.

•Know what to do if they have been touched inappropriately or subjected to inappropriate actions - which is to Say No, Walk Out and Tell a Trusted Adult, or NOT in short.

International research has shed light on the importance of appropriate sexuality education for young children as a key means to prevent child sexual abuse.

Some among us may view this subject matter as a sensitive one, and may, thus, shy away from talking about it. However, it is a vital message to relay to our children.

With our limited resources, we are unable to bring KidzLive to all pre-school centres.

We strongly urge parents and educators to step up in this aspect of education.

It is easier for us to work as a community to teach our children preventive skills, than to have to address the aftermath of inappropriate touching incidents.

To start empowering children on body-safety skills, parents and educators can refer to our KidzLive information booklet, which can be downloaded from www.childrensociety.org.sg

Alfred Tan Chwee Seng

Chief Executive Officer

Singapore Children's Society

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2016, with the headline 'Empower children with body-safety skills'. Print Edition | Subscribe