Playing it safe: Program fosters empowerment in children

Program fosters empowerment in children

BY LILY GORDON
Staff Writer

The mother of Teresa and Sean Hall works as a deputy in the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office, but her children were among the first to take part in a free program aimed at keeping them safe.

The program, radKIDS Inc., was designed to give children the tools and confidence they need to recognize, avoid, resist and escape danger through hands-on activities, role playing, demonstrations and classroom work. The Muscogee County Sheriff's Office has teamed up with radKIDS to bring the national program to Muscogee County.

"Our program makes them aware of their environment and of danger in general," said Sgt. Glenda Hall, mother of Teresa and Sean and one of more than 1,800 nationwide radKIDS instructors. "We're not teaching them how to fight," she said, "we're teaching them how to defend themselves."

The "rad" in radKIDS stands for resisting aggression defensively. A 10-hour class is broken down into two-hour increments over five days. The program was written for ages 5-11 and includes instructions on how to escape physical dangers, such as attacks or abductions, through martial arts.

Teresa and Sean graduated from the first installment of the radKIDS program in Muscogee County in April. Teresa, 11, and Sean, 7, gave the program rave reviews. "We loved the whole, entire thing," Sean said.

Teresa said her favorite part was the last day, when each member of the class performed newly acquired martial arts skills on an instructor pretending to be a "bad guy."

"We were trying to demonstrate how we protect ourselves in case a bad guy tries to come up and trick you," Teresa said.

The pizza, cake and soda were cool, too, she said.

Hall said she feels good about what radKIDS has taught her children and many others. The program has graduated more than 75,000 children across the country since its inception in 1998, according to the radKIDS Web site, www.radkids.org.

Building on thebasics

The program focuses on dangers in the home and on the streets:

  • Does your child know the difference between a good stranger and a bad stranger?
  • Does your family have a secret password?
  • Can your child tell the difference between a good touch, a bad touch and an uncomfortable touch?

Jennifer, a cartoon character created to explain important safety information throughout the manual, delicately explains the differences between a good touch, bad touch and uncomfortable touch.

"Good touch is a hug (that isn't too tight) or a high-five from Mom that makes you feel good inside," the illustration teaches.

The subject of touching is a sensitive issue, especially for children who have been exposed to an unwanted or uncomfortable touch. Muscogee County Sheriff's Office deputy and radKIDS instructor David Rice said this is an important subject because it teaches children that no one has the right to hurt them, and it's not their fault if they do get hurt or if someone tricks them.

Internet safety also is discussed in the radKIDS curriculum. "I really am a big stickler for Internet safety," Rice said. "One of my biggest pet peeves is people preying on little kids online."

The U.S. Department of Justice estimated that in 2005, 77 million children had access to the Internet.

"I think that as a parent in this day and age, you need to be very aware of what's going on out there," Rice said.

Children need to be aware as well that there are some bad people out there who may try to trick them into looking at something they're not supposed to look at, or into doing something they don't want to, Rice said. The folks behind radKIDS left it up to cartoon "radKID" Corey to explain Internet safety to the kids. Corey also talks about gun safety, phone safety, electric safety, kitchen safety, general play safety and dog defense.

Sean and Teresa Hall still practice the safety techniques they learned in April. In particular, they love brushing up on their martial arts.

Because of radKIDS, both children know 911 is the number to call if they're in danger. They also know calling 911 from a pay phone is free and that they have to answer a series of questions when an operator answers their call.

"Personally, I feel this program is necessary," Rice said. "It empowers kids to be able to protect themselves in any situation."

ABOUT radKIDS

RadKIDS is a not-for-profit "Personal Empowerment Safety Education" program that provides children with the skills and confidence they need to avoid and/or escape danger. Started in 1998 by now Executive Director Steve Daley, it is based in South Dennis, Mass. More than 1,800 instructors in more than 45 states and Canada have been nationally certified to teach the radKIDS curriculum. The program's Web site is www.radkids.org.

LOCAL CHAPTER

RadKIDS is free to all Muscogee County children, ages 5-11, and their parents. It is taught by certified local instructors at venues throughout the community. The next course begins Aug. 22. Sign up at www.columbusga.org/

sheriff or call the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office at 706-763-4225.


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