Expert offers tips for keeping children safe from predators - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Expert offers tips for keeping children safe from predators

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In a rapidly-evolving world, protecting a child's innocence is on the minds of many parents.

Wednesday, Savannah-Chatham Metro police turned to the public for tips in the February sexual assault of an underage girl. It happened in a wooded area near Myers Middle School.

That's where police say a 6-foot-tall black man with a short haircut, possibly styled in twists, forced the child to perform a sex act.

He was wearing a dark, long-sleeved shirt, dark pants, red Nike shoes and a black hat at the time.

When the crime was made public Wednesday, it sparked concern among parents, some of whom attended an information session at the Tybee Island YMCA hosted by John Rabun Jr., one of the founders of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Rabun's message for keeping a child safe is to think like a child. Take the old adage, don't talk to strangers.

But what's a stranger to a 6-year-old?

"Is it some guy with a gun wearing a trench coat?" Rabun asked. "Yeah, that too, but what about someone you've met at church, you've met at school, you've met at a little league game?"

Rabun said parents should cater their message, "to where the child understands what it is mommy and daddy want me to do. You know, just to be a good kid."

He advises parents to define the word stranger, to tell children, "Don't go off with anyone without asking mom and dad first."

"(Parents) have to get more in tune with where their child is on a daily basis," Rabun said, "and how their child would see where they are, as opposed to the way we see it as an adult."

Those tips will keep children safe on a playground, but what about the digital playground

Concerns about children's online safety were brought into focus Monday, when the Effingham County Sheriff's office announced the arrests of two men, ages 29 and 32, accused of having sex with a girl under the age of 15, whom they met online.

"Thank God we have police units now that are very highly skilled and trained to go after that type of stuff," Rabun said.

Police and sheriff's deputies advise parents to know their children's passwords to email and social media accounts. Some parents say that's invading a child's privacy.

Don't count Tim Seyden among them. He's a father of three who brought his children to the YMCA Wednesday evening. His 10-year-old twins just got Twitter accounts.

"They'll be plenty of time for them to have a lot of privacy when they're older," Seyden said."But right now, at the age they are, they will be just fine with me having their passwords."

Curry, a mother of two toddler boys who played on the YMCA's playground, thinks it's not all bad.

"Our parents probably had the same concerns that the world would be so different, but some of us turned out just fine," she said. "And maybe it will be the same with them. Good parenting and try your best and that's what you can do."

Rabun said the key to keeping children safe online is actually pretty low tech - communication. If your children feel like they can talk to you about anything, that they should talk to you about anything, they probably will.

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