Friday, August 22, 2014

Raising the Youth Protection Bar

Recent events in my extended family have me contemplating the importance of Youth Protection Training, and the cavalier way in which we go about it (I am probably projecting my own ideas here). I have a feeling that there are four years in which a boy talks about this topic with his parents, but only because the Wolf, Bear, Webelos and Tenderfoot badges require it, and after that, we're silent on the subject. When is the last time a Priest Quorum/Venture crew had this discussion (to say nothing of our young women!!)? What about their parents?

The last time I took the YPT course, my wife watched it over my shoulder. (Full disclosure, she's my Primary boss, as a counselor in our presidency, whose responsibilities include Activity Days girls.) When I was done with the training, she commented that all the parents of Scouting-age children should be required to complete it. She was particularly disturbed at the section on grooming, and how a predatory individual will ingratiate him/herself with a potential victim.

I wholeheartedly agree.

I wonder, is it common to gloss over this subject with our youth (well, our boys, since to my knowledge there's nothing like YPT in the AD/YW curriculum) up until they "pass off" Recognize-Resist-Report?  Because if that's the case, the last time a kid talks about this in a Church setting is before his 12th birthday. (I'll admit, I haven't had these discussions with my daughters, partly because there isn't a reminder to do so; that' something I can and will do something about.)

For that matter, how many parents are aware of the tactics commonly employed by child predators, and the warning signs that something is amiss?  Do we count on our cultural isolation, or on the Wasatch Mountains (speaking metaphorically), to protect us? Because Evil doesn't respect those barriers. Are we emphasizing statistically irrelevant Stranger Danger™ while ignoring the much higher statistical likelihood that an uncle, cousin, teacher or neighbor (and it's not limited to homo sapiens with a Y chromosome, either) is involved in something untoward?

In the larger BSA, Youth Protection is a subject revisited by Troops annually, because it is important that youth internalize these principles.  I'd add that just as we repeatedly tell our LDS youth to avoid porn due to its spiritually destructive nature, we ought to repeat YPT with them too. It's at least as important as the annual retelling of (sometimes historically dubious) Pioneer Day Stories, even though not everything can be a sunshine-and-roses, "everything is awesome" talk.

If we are really serious about preparing youth for the future, we owe it to them to equip them with the tools they need to confront the world they live in now, as well.  And that world is oftentimes an ugly place, with chameleons biding their time to take down unwary prey. We need to teach our kids what these chameleons look like, how they work, and what to do about them. In the context of this week's Primary lesson about David and Bathsheba, I wonder if it would be out of line to talk to the 9yo kids about what to do if someone propositions them, even if it's a "friend." At the very least, I can send an email to their parents with discussion points for taking on this topic.

Prepared. | For Life.™

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