MBF Safety Rule #2 – Spot Red Flags

MBF Prevention Education Programs help youth learn to identify potential Red Flags and see warning signs that might indicate a situation is unsafe or that someone needs help from a Safe Adult. Whether you are a parent or a professional caring for children, it is also important for you to know how to Spot Red Flags to help protect the children in your life.

MBF Safety Rule #2 – Spotting Red Flags means developing an awareness of warning signs that may be an indicator that something is unsafe.

Bullying Red Flags:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or damaged clothing, books, electronics, jewelry, or other belongings
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick, or pretending to be ill to avoid school
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating
  • Comes home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch
  • Difficulty sleeping/nightmares
  • Declining grades or lost interest in schoolwork
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoiding social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide

Cyberbullying Red Flags:

  • Receives an excessive amount of email or text messages
  • Spends large amounts of time online, especially at night or when alone
  • Anxious or nervous about receiving texts, instant messages, or emails
  • Quickly exits computer or cell phone when parent or caregiver approaches
  • Unwilling to share information about online activities
  • Unexplained anger or depression, especially after going online
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Doesn’t want to go to school
  • Unexplained stomach aches or headaches
  • Trouble sleeping at night
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts

Child Abuse Red Flags:

Physical Abuse

  • Injuries and explanations of injury do not match
  • Fearful, angry, or sad
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Fearful of adult contact or avoids a particular parent or caregiver
  • Decline in grades/lack of interest in school
  • Nervous, withdrawn, clingy, tries to please caregiver
  • Hostile, aggressive, violent, self-destructive
  • Complains of soreness/physical or psychosomatic illness
  • Shows little or no emotion when hurt

Emotional Abuse

  • Demanding, needy, attention-seeking, overly compliant
  • Oppositional or destructive behavior
  • Delinquent or criminal activity
  • Unfriendly, distant, or poor peer-relations
  • Anxiety, sleep disorders
  • Low self-esteem, depressed, suicidal
  • Delayed physical or cognitive development
  • Speech difficulties or disorders
  • Habit disorders (sucking, rocking, biting)
  • Eating disorders, ulcers
  • Flat affect/shows no emotion

Sexual Abuse

  • Withdrawn, depressed, threatened by physical contact
  • Premature knowledge of sex, seductive behavior
  • Sexual acting out, excessive masturbation
  • Low self-esteem, lack of confidence
  • Sudden change in weight
  • Change or decrease in school performance
  • Uncontrolled emotions, secrecy
  • Anxiety, sleep difficulties, nightmares, and/or other fears
  • Regressed behaviors (speech, bedwetting)
  • Adolescents: self-mutilation, eating disorders, promiscuity

Unhealthy Relationship Red Flags:

  • Extreme jealousy or possessiveness by a partner (or demonstrating this themselves)
  • Unexplained marks or bruises
  • Emailing or texting excessively
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Loss of interest or participation in extracurricular activities or other interests
  • Stops spending time with friends and family
  • Dressing differently

Trafficking Red Flags:

  • The sudden presence of an older boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Having new or expensive things
  • Being secretive about their activities
  • Becoming isolated
  • Seeming anxious or hostile
  • A new job offer
  • Engaging in risky behaviors
  • Signs of physical abuse
  • A new, unexplainable or strange attoo
  • Using language about “the life”

When Spotting Red Flags, it is important to remember the presence of red flags does not prove abuse, neglect, or bullying is happening, however, they MIGHT indicate some type of victimization is occurring, and it is wise to seek more information. It is also important to remember that warning signs of abuse, neglect, and bullying vary from child to child. It’s also vital for children and youth to learn prevention strategies to help protect themselves from all types of victimization. Check with your child’s school to learn what type of prevention/safety program they may be using.

Learn More

As a parent, professional, or community member, it is important to know the 5 Safety Rules that will help you protect children. MBF offers parents, professionals, and concerned community members a variety of resources to help protect children:

  • Visit Online Training to take any of our free, one-hour online courses to learn more about pertinent topics related to child safety:
    • Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse/Neglect
    • Real-World Safety: Protecting Children Online and Off from Bullying, Cyberbullying, and Digital Abuse
    • Protecting Children from Child Sexual Abuse
    • Preventing, Recognizing, and Responding to Human Trafficking
  • Download the “Child Safety Matters” app at no cost from the App Store or Google Play to learn about the 5 Safety Rules and how to become a champion for children.

See Safety Rule #3 – Make a Move.


What They're Saying...

The MBF Teen Safety Matters curriculum hosts an in-depth approach to important social and safety concerns relevant to youth. The program content is age-appropriate with engaging activities, jargon, and realistic situations to positively promote a relatable and impacting learning experience…Teen Safety Matters is an educational benefit to all parties involved – students, parents, facilitators, and schools.

The MBF Child Safety Matters program is impressive. This important information is well formulated and well presented, developmentally appropriate, and based on good understanding of literature.

There’s not a child in the world who can’t benefit from this program. There are so many instances where we see children who have been damaged and hurt. Things happened to them and we think, if they’d only had this program, if they’d only had the benefit of this education, that might not have happened to them. If we can prevent that from happening to a single child, then it’s worth all the effort we have put forth

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