— Content warning: discussion of crimes against children —
The lustful actions of Herry Wirawan, a teacher at Manarul Huda Islamic Boarding School and Madani Boarding School in Cibiru, Bandung, West Java, has finally come to light for sexual abuse.
Wirawan had been raping his female students since 2016. This incident reminds us that violence against children has entered an alarming red zone in this country.
Violence against children has reached an alarming level following its upward trend in various cities across the country. This is getting worse as working families become the norm, marked by working mothers and fathers, leaving the raising of children to housekeepers in the home. Many acts of violence against children, such as domestic violence and pedophilia, are inextricably linked to the lack of family empowerment. Despite the skyrocketing violence against children, empowering the family would be the best way to fight back as long as it includes the following elements.
First, children need to learn soft skills as part of their education. In principle, soft skills are a catch-all term referring to various behaviors that help people work well and socialize well with others. Parents need to know that children’s soft skills are key to predicting their success in life, now and in the future, and to reducing crime. Their self-confidence grows when parents encourage their children to act on their interests resulting from their curiosity. Through curiosity, for example, a child will not easily trust anyone or like anything he or she has recently heard and encountered.
Thus, it is necessary for parents to be uncomfortable when their children tend to remain silent, submissive and inactive. Active children need to be encouraged by preparing the answers they ask for and seek and which can be understood by their minds. This involves, among other things, basic self-defense mechanisms so that when children are in danger or confronted with a new, unidentified person who may harm them, they can react accordingly.
In Japan, this works well because parents provide their children with particular passwords for a stranger to say as part of identification, while in Western countries children are taught to yell “stranger” if a person stranger approaches them.
Second, control but don’t prohibit children’s use of gadgets. Parents need to limit their child’s gadget time because technology and gadgets take up a lot of quality time away from the family. It often happens that children find it difficult to communicate with their parents because they don’t spend much time talking to them except when they need money and look at them as if they were a slot machine.
Due to social media, gadgets have been misused for various crimes, like child abuse. Many pedophiles use social media as a breeding ground in their attempt to seek out their victims. Facebook, for example, is no longer a social network but also a social operating system on which various services are based.
In order to protect children from pedophiles on the Internet, parents should consider some tips, such as children should never upload a picture of themselves on the Internet, never give out personal information on the Internet, and children should never be left alone in a room with a computer connected to the internet.
Parents can ensure a healthy parent-child-gadget relationship through the use of apps. Kakatu is one of the family apps in Indonesia, launched in 2014, which helps parents limit access to apps and monitor their children’s usage. Supported by its features to limit access to certain applications, Kakatu allows parents to choose which other installed apps their kids are allowed to access and can also set a timer to allow their kids to play with the gadget only for a limited time.
Third, autonomy should be instilled in children at home. What parents often overlook when it comes to raising their children is the strong correlation between autonomy and child safety. The more independent a child is, the more it survives and thrives. In the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, children are used to saying “thank you” to express their gratitude, “I’m sorry” for making a mistake and “pleasewhen asking for help. Therefore, not only will they be familiarized with the ethics of fairness and professionalism in later social interactions, but they will also endure social challenges given their understanding of social norms.
A great deal of research suggests that child victims of pedophilia are less exposed to independent and democratic values at home, which may come down to poor parenting skills. Parents need to remember that befriending, traveling and hanging out with their children are effective in instilling independent and democratic values in children as early as possible.
Taking children to the mosque to pray, to a car wash or to the bookstore will gradually foster children’s independence. Such regular encounter sets the stage for children’s curiosity, leading them to have more independent decision-making skills. Parental pressure can have lasting negative effects on children as they seek escape which is often abused by child predators.