April is Child Abuse Prevention month, making this an appropriate time to plan a Scout meeting to work on the child abuse prevention-related elements built into the BSA program.
Like the youth protection-themed booklets that are required reading for parents and Scouts of all ages, the Protect Yourself Rules Preview Adventure (for Cub Scouts) and the Personal Safety Awareness programs (for Scouts BSA members, Venturers and Sea Scouts) cover topics that are critical to help ensure the safety and well-being of our youth.
As it is with all of the skills kids learn in Scouting, these requirements provide tools and knowledge that will remain vital to the youth as they continue their journey to adulthood.
In addition to plenty of materials to read and discuss, the BSA — in partnership with the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center Foundation — also offers a series of videos tailored for different ages that can be played at unit meetings or in the Scout’s home.
We recommend sharing your meeting plans on these topics with parents in advance of the meeting date.
For Cub Scouts …
We already know that the Protect Yourself Rules Cub Scout Adventure is working: 93% of parents whose children completed this program say it helped them have this important conversation with their children.
Because the Protect Yourself Rules Preview Adventures is so wide-ranging when it comes to keeping kids safe, it can be earned in place of the Cyber Chip requirement for the Tiger through Arrow of Light badges of rank.
If you want to work on these adventures in a den meeting, the BSA offers separate plans for Lion, Tiger, Wolf, Bear, Webelos and Arrow of Light meetings. Though this adventure can also be used as a pack program, leaders should still break out the dens by rank, since each program has content aimed at specific age groups.
Links to the videos for each program can be found here.
For younger Scouts BSA members …
The Personal Safety advancement requirements for Scout, Tenderfoot and First Class ranks in Scouts BSA expand the discussion for older kids. The requirement to earn the rank of Scout is to review the appropriate Parents Guide to Protecting Your Children From Child Abuse.
In order to earn the Tenderfoot rank, Scouts must be able to “explain the importance of keeping yourself safe using the buddy system on outings and in your neighborhood and demonstrate the buddy system by using it on a troop or patrol outing.”
And for Second Class, the requirements broaden even more, covering the “three R’s” of personal safety (recognize, respond and report) while also getting into the topic of how to respond to bullying.
And again, there are videos to show at unit meetings that can be used in place of the Cyber Chip requirement for the Scout and Star ranks.
For Venturers, Sea Scouts and older Scouts BSA members …
It can be valuable for adult leaders and parents to show the teen-focused videos to older BSA youth (even if they’ve already seen them) and use them as a starting point for a deeper discussion about topics such as recognizing abuse, responding to abuse, reporting abuse, and stopping bullying and hazing.
This is a great opportunity for our older youth to understand the valuable role they play in setting an example in their unit.
Youth leaders — think: assistant patrol leaders, senior patrol leaders, crew presidents etc. — don’t just lead by teaching younger Scouts how to tie knots and set up tents. They lead by treating others well, including those who are younger, smaller or less able than themselves.
Leading by example
If an older Scout sees someone being hazed or bullied, they should be encouraged to stand up for what is right by defending that person, using the Scout Oath and Law as a guide. Scouts can set an example at home, school and in Scouting by being an upstander. (Being an upstander is even highlighted in the Personal Safety Awareness videos.)
In many cases, it is the older kids who define the culture of an entire unit. If they look the other way when they see bullying, then bullying becomes acceptable to the rest of the Scouts.
But this culture doesn’t just develop by accident. Most often it is the result of open and honest conversations with parents and adult leaders about what’s expected from the Scouts.
Conversations like these greatly increase the chances of having a group of Scouts who look out for each other and are ready to protect each other, whether that means reminding each other to tighten up their life jackets and secure their helmets or speaking up when they see someone who isn’t behaving like a Scout should.