The Privates Rule, Let’s Talk About Keeping Our Kids Safe

When it come to talking about penises and vaginas no one feels totally comfortable. When someone tells me that getting over my squeamishness can protect my kids from being sexually exploited, I’m all ears. Turns out that one of the most important things we can do to protect our little ones is talk. Talk to each other, talk to those who interact with our children and most importantly talk a lot to our kids.

Nora Shine reminds us that kids take language very literally. If you say, “Did someone touch you?” Kids may say no. But that doesn’t mean that someone didn’t ask them to touch themselves or that someone didn’t take photos of them.

Thanks to the Internet, child porn is at an all time high rate of consumption.

Shine says


In 94 percent of sexual exploitation cases the offender is not a stranger

In 80 percent of children exploited never tell

1 in 5 children under 18 will be exploited

The average age of exploitation is 7 years old

Most children are exploited by people they have a close relationship with

What can we do about it?

“Everyone knows the Privates Rule! Adults don’t share anything about their privates with children and children don’t share anything about their privates with adults. If someone breaks the Privates Rule, it’s the child’s job to tell their mom or dad (or person responsible for them)”

I love this language. It’s clear and vast in scope. It puts the onus on the grownup to act, not the child to differentiate between “good touch/bad touch” or “stranger danger.” Kids need to report and let the parents or grownups making the decisions. She also stressed that you don’t want to scare kids about what might happen if someone breaks the rule. Since most often the child cares deeply for the offender they will be likely to protect them. You simply say, “If someone breaks the Privates Rule, you need to tell me so I can remind them about the rule.”

Shine also give great advice about body ownership and training your children to know when something isn’t right. There are no exceptions. She goes into detail in her lecture about warning signs to look for in other grownups as well as how to handle “yellow light” situations.

As she says, no one robs a house with a police car in the driveway, so be that police car for your children and your neighborhood. Speak up and ask questions. Get comfortable talking to other adults about what you feel is safe and what’s not.

Every parent should watch this video:


check out her blog for more information:


Here is a summary from another Momma Blogger:

Other precautions Dr. Shine spoke about included parenting strategies that focused on openness and honesty, including:

  1. Answer questions: Some people are uncomfortable talking about sex and the human body. Predators know that, and use it to their advantage. Parents therefore should give children facts about their bodies, sex, reproduction, and other topics in a clear and honest way, putting aside their own discomfort, so they feel comfortable asking questions and speaking up when something is not right.
  2. Model boundaries and respect: Establish family rules (e.g., everyone gets private time when they are in the bathroom, no one is naked in front of guests, etc.) and then be consistent executing those rules.
  3. Adopt “privates” rules: Dr. Shine is a big proponent of using the correct name for body parts, believing that euphemisms and nicknames retain some element of shame or discomfort.  To that end, though, sometimes, using the general term of “privates” may help others feel more comfortable (this is especially helpful when out in public, visiting with friends and family, etc.). She recommended using clear rules about privates, such as: privates are private, no adult should show any kid their privates, and no one should ever take a picture of a child’s privates. These “privates rules” should emphasize that the child’s responsibility is to always tell mom or dad when someone violates the rules.
  4. Establish truth rules: Dr. Shine suggested that families create rules around the need for kids to tell their parents the truth—no matter what anyone else says. Emphasize that they will not get in trouble for sharing the truth or telling a secret to mom and dad (this is helpful as abusers often tell their victims not to tell anyone about the abuse, referring to it as their “secret”).
  5. Limit 1:1 time: One of the best ways to end abuse is to eliminate opportunities for someone to spend one-on-one alone time with a child. All interactions should be in a public place with others around, and, if that’s not possible, another adult should be nearby or plan to “pop in” unexpectedly.
  6. Walk with confidence: Dr. Shine wasn’t a fan of the “stranger danger” talk, seeing it as fear inducing and unrealistic (e.g., we tell our kids not to talk to strangers and then we chat with the person we’ve never met who’s in front of us in line in the grocery store). Rather, she encourages parents to teach children to walk with confidence, pay attention to what’s around them, follow their intuition, and be wary of tricky, overly familiar, or pushy people.

Since talking about these topics can be hard, Dr. Shine suggested getting a book to read together with your child, as a means to get the conversation started. Some of the ones she recommended included:

For parents, she mentioned, Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane) by Gavin De Becker and The Talk: What Your Kids Need to Hear from You About Sex by Sharon Maxwell.

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