Keeping children safe: Should children keep secrets?

Today J asked me to keep something a secret. It was only something little and silly but I told him no.

Not because I’m mean or want to gossip but because secrets can be dangerous. In today’s social media driven world, children have access to chat boards, messenger services, sharing photos and ability to cause mental health difficulties, bullying and even worse grooming and pushing towards suicide or dangerous acts.

For example I’ve read articles and posts about hackers and apps which can access devices/apps to get images or info to use as blackmail, and others where children are threatened and scared into doing as they are ‘told’ (eg: Momo, Blue Whale, Slenderman). They encourage children to do dangerous/life threatening ‘dares’ or challenges. It has led to the death/suicide of children who have felt no way out. It may have been fear, worry about consequence and feeling there was no other way out. In this scenario keeping secrets has meant parents have had no idea any of this is happening.

J may only be 4 but he is already impressionable. Now is the time to introduce ways to keep himself safe.

Here’s my view of secrets:

Secrets are things you don’t tell anyone or there’s a consequence. This may be that the person gets upset with you or you may get ‘punished’ in some way. Secrets are a pressure and can mean something bad or dangerous is hidden from the adult.

I don’t want J to feel he can’t tell me things. I don’t want him agreeing to keep other people’s secrets and then being in the position of not knowing what to do. I don’t want him having his own secrets and not feeling he can’t tell me or someone else around him. I want feelings, actions, mistakes, worries to all be transparent and spoken about.

However, I do want J to know about surprises. The benefit of doing something as a treat for someone, the fun of presents being wrapped so we don’t it is what it is and the suspense of something exciting happening.

The key differences between secret and surprise:

A surprise is fun, it’s harmless and isn’t ‘forever’. There is an end to a surprise so it’s not kept away from someone forever. You can talk about a surprise with others who are involved, and share feelings and thoughts over it.

I explained to J why he didn’t need the information he gave me to be kept secret. I said that he was safe, it wasn’t anything he had to think about and that if I did tell anyone what he said then it’s not going to get him trouble. I told him I didn’t need to tell anyone because we had sorted the problem so it was all finished now. I said that secrets can be sad and make people worried.

I also said to him that he can tell me about any secrets someone tells him and that I promise I would help and listen. That I’d never be angry about a secret (well I might internally but I won’t let him know that).

Maybe I’m overprotective but after years of safeguarding training and child protection conferences through my previous job role I have read, seen and heard the damage that asking children to keep secrets can do. Sadly, children with additional needs and disabilities are often a target for abuse. With J being autistic I need to make sure that he is not taken advantage off when he ventures into the social world (on or off line) without me. The earlier these ‘life lessons’ are brought in the more they will become second nature to him and the safer he will be.

Or I might just make him wear a GPS recording device and watch his every move from my smartphone for the entirety of his/my life. That’s not OTT is it?….

Now children are children, and no matter how safe you may make them feel they may still be unsure about speaking to parents about this. Or as parents we may not feel knowledge or equipped to deal with scenarios. There’s places you can turn for advice:

(Example of one of the NSPCC schemes aimed at children keeping themselves safe)

So, in this scary world of secrets and intimidation techniques how do you keep your children safe? Have you had ‘a talk’ or found something else that has helped? I’d love to know your thought in the comments or come find us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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18 Comments Add yours

  1. I hope I have managed to instill in both my girls that they can tell me anything, any time, with no repercussions, just help and support. It’s a tricky balance though isn’t it, because you don’t want them to feel they can’t tell you anything because you are saying you won’t keep it secret for them… starting them early is a good idea though x

    Liked by 2 people

    1. mummyest2014 says:

      That’s it, it’s a hard balance. I want J to know I won’t just tell everyone everything but do need to get help it needed x

      Like

  2. Xstitchbee says:

    Such an interesting read. Not something I’ve even considered before. Certainly good for thought when my little one is older, thanks!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. mummyest2014 says:

      It’s kind of a sad thing that it needs talking about but it’s part of today’s world it seems x

      Like

      1. Xstitchbee says:

        Indeed! Could be said about many things really. All we can do is the best we can x

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Baffledmum says:

    This is a tough one because we want our children to be able to tell us anything but we also want them to know when a secret should be kept or shared, depending on the circumstances… It’s kind of difficult to put into words! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mummyest2014 says:

      Yeah that’s why I try to use the word surprise so he can still have the fun of presents, surprise treats for others etc. I don’t want him to think it’s always bad to hide things (if that makes sense haha)x

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I couldn’t have put it better myself. We teach the boys the same concept about secrets and surprises.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mummyest2014 says:

      Thanks, I’m glad it made sense haha. Surprises are definitely better than secrets 🙂 x

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My son who’s 8 has been going on about that Momo thing for a few weeks. Ugh…we had to have a talk about what’s real and what isn’t and luckily he’s pretty sensible about stuff like that. But with my 5 yr old we have talked about the PANTS rule too. In fact we did a little vid about it when she was a baby and my son was 3 for the NSPCC facebook page! It’s really important to keep talking to your kids about what’s out there. It’s so different to when i was a kid.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mummyest2014 says:

      It’s a very different world. Everything can be recorded and captured and shared. So many more ways to ‘get to’ children now z

      Like

  6. I love the fact you’ve made a very serious post very interesting by throwing in in some humour to! Nicely done

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jen says:

    I had never thought about this before, thanks for sharing! Definitely something for me to remember for when Jasper is older x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mummyest2014 says:

      Thanks, I’m glad it was helpful x

      Like

  8. Sadie says:

    Interesting read! Something I’ll save for when my little boy and new baby is older for sure. I want them to grow up feeling comfortable telling me everything.

    Sadie x

    http://www.lifewiththewoodheads.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mummyest2014 says:

      That’s definitely my aim too. I want my kids to know that I’ll listen and help no matter what x

      Like

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