If your teenage son has any history of troubled behavior, never have them supervise a young child, particularly between the ages of 4 and 7. I’m not demonizing teenage boys, just acknowledging the reality that delinquent teens present a significant risk, sexually and otherwise, to young children.
Alert your teen to the reality that a younger minor, both from a legal and developmental point of view, cannot willingly engage in sexual acts. Consent implies that a child has a complete understanding of the risks and implications of a sexual behavior. A 6-year-old cannot voluntarily consent to engaging in a sexual act with a 12-year-old. Many kids misinterpret younger children’s cooperation or interest in sex as an indication that the sexual acts are voluntary. They are neither voluntary nor legal, and can result in serious consequences.
Help your child understand the long-term legal consequences for engaging in sexual behavior with a younger person. Sexual offenses are viewed very seriously, even if committed by a minor. Some of these minors are placed for many years on directories of sexual predators.
Look for signs of any unusual interest in your child wanting to be routinely around younger children. Continue to supervise, ask questions, and monitor your teen’s behavior.
Next week: Questions from readers
Dr. Ramey is a child psychologist and vice president of outpatient services at the Dayton Children’s Medical Center.