The protection of children from dangers lurking on the Internet and ways in which adults and organisations can mitigate potential for abuse of children were key aspects of a special joint meeting of all Adventist churches on Saturday, 13 May, at Kings Church. 

Speakers at the Child Safety Seminar, from left, front, Pastor Shion O’Connor, Daisy Montes de Oca, Cereta McDonald, and Pastor Wilton McDonald; rear, from left, John Wesley (responsible for an area of risk management), Rudy Myles, Felicia Robinson, and Pastor Reinaldo Dracket.

The meeting with local and international speakers from business and child services sectors was convened as part of the church’s observance of Child Month.

The main presenters at the meeting were Ms Daisy Montes de Oca, an account executive with responsibility for risk management from the world headquarters of the Adventist Church in Washington, DC, and Mr. Rudy Myles, Flow Caribbean Regional Fraud Manager based in the Cayman Islands.  Ms Montes de Oca was invited to Cayman by the President of the Cayman Islands Conference of Seventh-day Adventist, Pastor Shion O’Connor.

Other speakers at the afternoon’s Child Month observance were Mrs. Felicia Robinson, Director of the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), and Mrs. Cereta McDonald, Director of the Adventist Conference’s Children & Adolescents’ Ministries, under whose umbrella a full slate of Child Month activities has been organised.

Commenting after the meeting, Ms Montes de Oca said, “This has been a very timely meeting,” and added: “The churches need to be involved in child safety, and I am impressed that the Cayman Islands Conference takes child safety and risk management seriously and is taking steps to ensure that the proper procedures are in place.”

In her brief remarks at the meeting, DCFS Director Robinson thanked the church community for doing its part in raising awareness of cyber dangers and child abuse, and appealed to parents to “invest time and energy” in their children and to “respond to their needs with compassion.”

In a similar vein, Children and Adolescent Ministries Director for the Adventist Conference Cereta McDonald reminded parents of the “overwhelming plight of children” who are abused, many quite often by those closest to them, a predicament complicated by increasing dangers on the Internet. She reminded attendees of the dire consequences of abuse: obesity, addictions, risky behaviours, among other outcomes, resulting in economic loss and other impacts on a national scale.

World church risk manager Daisy Montes de Oca.

Issuing a similar warning, Mr. Rudy Myles urged parents to ensure that they know what is taking place on the devices they have provided for their children and in chat rooms visited by their children.  What was even more concerning, Mr. Myles said, was the apps that children are being allowed to use.

Mr. Myles identified some of these unsafe apps that allow access to call logs and identification of devices; can turn Wi-Fi on and off; and send harmful coaching messages through devices’ microphones, among other strategies to entrap and endanger unsuspecting teens. 

Strategies to combat the ill-effects of these dangers, Mr. Myles said, included the pressing need of parents to spend quality time with their children, avoiding using computer devices as pacifiers, and embracing their responsibilities to care about what their children are viewing and to guide them appropriately.

Among some specific advice, Mr. Myles urged parents to provide security of Internet connections at home and elsewhere, ensuring encrypted passwords; establish separate user accounts for adults and children; install age-appropriate content filters and security software; and to set up systems to enable notifications about what their children are viewing.

“Talk to your children about the dangers of the Internet environment,” Mr. Myles urged, and, above all, “As adults we need to be the sermon in the examples we set for children,” he said.

Mr. Myles recommended some resources and tools for parents, including Net Nanny, Norton Family, Our Pact, and Internet Safety 101, among others, such as “Adventist Risk Management Inc. ( www.adventistrisk.org/prevention-resources/chld-protection-topics/child-and-youth-activities/child-protection ), Get Safe Online (www.getsafeonline.org/safeguarding-children/) Safety Net Kids (www.safetynetkids.org.uk/personal-safety/staying-safe-online.)

The Williams Children yet again adding their melodious voices to the afternoon’s seminar focusing on the protection of children.

“‘None of our children are incorrigible – with diligent training they might develop characters which God would approve, but you cannot relax, for they need to be firmly restrained,’ ” Mr. Myles said, quoting Ellen G. White, who wrote prolifically on a range of issues during the 18th and 19th century.

In her presentation, Ms Montes de Oca explained the types of behaviour that abused children might display, such as what they say, physical injuries, running away, depression, and withdrawal.

She outlined the policies of the Adventist church designed to mitigate abuse, including the two-adult policy (one adult should not be alone with individual children or groups); the six-month probationary period for new church members; screening procedures; facility visibility for monitoring purposes; and training in local legal requirements for reporting of child abuse.

Ms Montes de Oca said that if staff involved with children were not meeting standards, there was a duty to remove them.

She also covered safety procedures for outings, including permission forms, the recommended number of staff to children, transportation and equipment safety.

The possibility of workshops for parents on protecting their children from abuses on the Internet was raised by one parent during the discussion period following the seminar.

“Onward Christian Soldiers” being rendered by the Filadelfia Church’s children’s orchestra directed by Keila Woods.

“I would love to see the parent workshops come to reality this year as it has been asked for in the last two sessions that I have done,” Mr. Myles commented after Saturday’s seminar. “It does require a lot of coordination, but it will bear fruit for the parents and children.”

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