FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Fayetteville-based National Child Protection Task Force combines tech experts and law enforcement members to better combat cybercrimes against children. The nonprofit was founded by Washington County prosecutor Kevin Metcalf and now has a footprint across the country. With the group’s continued growth, Metcalf has started a parent education division to offer parents resources to better protect their kids online. Tessa Capel is a mom and volunteer with the task force focusing on parent education. She offers some advice on building parent-child relationships.
How do we start creating an open line of communication between a child and a parent?
“You can’t start with the hard stuff. It’s let’s sit down and have dinner. No phone. And, let’s start having a conversation. What happened today? Are your friends experiencing something? A lot of times kids will talk about what their friends are doing to test the waters with their parents because they can be experiencing something very similar. So, they’re going to gage your reaction, based on how you’re giving them information about a friend,” says Capel.
What do I do as a parent, if my child comes forward with a serious issue?
“Don’t talk. Just listen. That knee jerk reaction, that “Oh my God!” Let it go. Because, that right there, starts to build the wall and block the communication from your child. If they have that fear of ‘I am going to be in so much trouble’ and ‘My parents are going to be so mad at me,’ it stops them from reaching out to you during the important things. And it starts with the little things,” she says .
What are important topics to talk about with our kids?
“I would definitely have sex talks with your kids. I know it seems like ‘oh my gosh, I can’t do that!’ Do it! Because even from a young age, start telling them if a swimsuit touches that area, other people can’t touch that. And then you start to build that and have those conversations so once they get older it becomes easier,” says Capel.
“My Job is To Keep You Safe”
“My job is to keep you safe, and your job is to keep it that way. So what that means is, I’m going to create the safest environment I can, and if something happens that I’m not aware of [my child] has to tell me and it’s [his or her] job to keep it that way,” says Capel.
“Codes Are Helpful”
“It could be as simple as ‘can you send me a picture of our dog?’ This is through text message this is through a phone call. It should be an indicator to you, that there’s a problem and you need to get your child out of it,” she says.
How can parents get more resources from the National Child Protection Task Force?
“Follow us on social media and then always send a direct message. If we have a parent facing this, seriously, send us a message and let’s get connected because there are lots of resources that parents just don’t know about and one of our end goals is to have a support group for parents so they have a place to talk and they have a space to say ‘I’m mad, I’m so angry right now!’ because we don’t have that and we need to foster that community. It’s okay because you’re going to have a range of emotions. But, reach out,” says Capel.
You can directly contact the National Child Protection Task Force volunteers on its Facebook page.