A former child abuse detective has warned parents against letting their children go to sleepovers, saying it is something she would “never do” after her experience as a police officer.
Kristi McVee, now a child protection educator after 10 years serving with the Western Australia Police, said sleepovers were among three things “every parent should be mindful of” to protect their children.
In a video posted to TikTok, she said sleepovers were a “no no”, especially for younger children.
“Children are vulnerable, they don’t always have the language or the skills or confidence to help themselves when or to get help if something happens,” Ms McVee said in the video.
She said sleepovers were “one of the number one things” that she saw people and other children getting abused at.
“Definitely sleepovers are a no no until children get older.”
Ms McVee also warned against “blindly trusting anyone” or letting young children have unsupervised or unrestricted access to the internet.
“After the thousands of kids I’ve spoken to, the number of people I’ve heard from both on this app and the other apps I just think we need to remember that our children’s safety is our responsibility,” she said.
“We can’t trust anyone. Even if nothing happened to you with that person as a child, unfortunately that doesn’t mean it won’t happen to your child.”
She said the warning applies to parents, grandparents, partners, friends, friends’ partners, cousins, even other children – “this is everyone”.
As for internet use, the former specialist child interviewer said despite knowing the dangers of letting kids use it freely and the potential to be exposed to inappropriate content, “we use it as a babysitting device”.
“In my experience I saw children who were given unrestricted access … they were exposed to porn, they were groomed online,” Ms McVee said, noting the inappropriate content had serious long-lasting impacts.
“(It) actually impacts their mental health and impacts their future learning. It impacts their potential for abusing other children … there’s so many reasons why.”
She said cutting them off is not entirely realistic, but “it should never be a free for all”.
Children should be supervised and only use devices in a common area with parents around. and not when alone their room.
The video has gained hundreds of thousands of views, and hundreds of comments thanking the WA ex-cop for the list.
“Fantastic advice! I used to get so upset with my parents for not allowing me to go to sleepovers. I’m a parent now and I DEFINITELY understand now!” one user commented.
“I was never allowed sleepovers as a kid and thought it was so unfair but now as an adult I don’t plan on letting my future kids either,” another wrote.
In later videos Ms McVee added that whether or not a child can go to a sleepover depended on their knowledge of their protective behaviours and their confidence voicing their safety rights.
She said she sent her daughter to sleepovers as a child after a “vetting process”, and encouraged parents to do the same – including asking questions about sleeping arrangements, what they’ll be doing, who is looking after them, and who was in the home, including children, and what the rules around devices are.
“Are they going to be on devices and do (parents) take devices away at a certain time? Because this is also where children get access to pornography and Omegle and things like that,” Ms McVee said.
She urged parents to teach children about their own body safety rights, protective behaviours, and consent – including knowing the very simple, “Stop it, I don’t like it”, message that could vet safe people.
She said she was “very cautious” about people who did not respect a child voicing their boundaries, or who expected children to do things like hugging or kissing others “because they’re a child”.
“Not everyone is going to agree with you when it comes to the safety of your child,” she said. “But if when you speak to someone and even thought they might not get it, they respect that, then they’re a safe person in my eyes.”
Originally published as Former child abuse cop reveals the three things parents should ‘never’ let their kids do
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