Kids in the Know: A Research and Evidence-Based Program

In 2001, the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) created guidelines for education programs. The intention was to provide a framework for communities when selecting safety programs and making curriculum decisions. In developing these guidelines, NCMEC consulted with pediatricians, researchers, university professors and child psychologists. Kids in the Know fulfills these guidelines:


Research has demonstrated that prevention programs that work to reduce child victimization have had the greatest effect on children who are of preschool or elementary school age.

Kids in the Know covers Kindergarten to Grade 9, and offers Teatree Tells lessons for preschool-aged children. The core foundation of the curriculum is based on the 7 Root Safety Strategies and the 4 Root Safety Environments. These root safety principles are reinforced and practiced throughout each grade level to provide children with a solid safety repertoire. The program has been purposefully designed to create a common language to help facilitate the way we teach kids about their own personal safety.

View the Research:
  • A study by Davis & Gidycz (2000) demonstrated that children in preschool and early elementary school benefited most from prevention programs.
  • A study by Wurtele and Owens (1997) of preschool-aged children found that after participating in prevention programs, students demonstrated a significantly greater knowledge and higher levels of personal-safety skills than before.
  • A study by Rispens, Aleman & Goudena (1997) found that children younger than 5.5 years benefitted the most from prevention programs.
  • A study by Kraizer, Witte and Fryer (1989) found that children who participated in a prevention program in Kindergarten through Grade 2 were more likely to tell a safe adult if they were victimized, both when physically forced or told by an offender to keep the incident a secret.


There is considerable research demonstrating that children can learn and apply personal safety skills.

Kids in the Know helps build a child’s safety competence and safety confidence. Lessons help increase children’s ability to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous situations.

View the Research:
  • A study by Schwartz, Waddell, Harrison, and Garland (2006) showed that prevention programs are effective in increasing children’s knowledge and self-protection skills and recommended the continued investment in prevention programs.
  • A study by Wurtele and Owens (1997) demonstrated how children can be taught to recognize the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touch.
  • A study by Rispens, Aleman and Goudena (1997) demonstrated that prevention programs were effective in teaching children sexual abuse concepts and self-protection skills.
  • The same study by Wurtele and Owens (1997) showed that children can be taught assertiveness skills to help avoid an offender’s lures.
  • In a phone survey by Finkelhor, Asdigian and Dziuba-Leatherman (1995), a large percentage of children and youth aged 10 to 16 years of age said they used information or skills taught in a prevention education program to avoid a threatening stranger or get out of a threatening circumstance.
  • Studies by MacMillan, MacMillan, Offord, Griffith & MacMillan (1994) and Davis and Gidycz (2000) demonstrated that prevention programs significantly improved children’s knowledge and skills.


Research demonstrates that prevention programming results in increased levels of disclosure for children who have been victimized.

Kids in the Know helps teach children how to identify a safe adult in their lives who they can go to for help, and discusses how children can tell a safe adult if they need help. Lessons are setup to encourage children to disclose unhealthy situations and incidents, such as boundary-breaking behaviours as well as abuse situations to a safe adult. Kids in the Know also discusses how such abuse experiences can create very conflicting feelings for a child as the offender is often a very important person in a child’s life. Through the lessons, children practice how to tell a safe adult about such experiences.

View the Research:
  • In a study by Hazard, Webb and Kleemeir (1991) it was found that within six weeks of receiving prevention education that was presented in three parts, several children who had been experiencing ongoing sexual abuse came forward and reported incidents that had happened in the past.
  • In a study by Kolko, Moser and Hughes (1989) five out of six schools found that where prevention education was offered, school guidance counsellors received confirmed, multiple reports of inappropriate sexual or physical touching in the six months following the program, but no reports were noted in the group of children who did not participate in the program.


One concern that parents and educators may have with regard to prevention programs that try to reduce child victimization is that they may unnecessarily cause fear and anxiety for children. Research demonstrates that this is not the case.

Efforts have been made to ensure that children/youth have been set up for success when participating in Kids in the Know. Students are engaged in learning through fun, interactive, activity-based lessons that are not based on fear. Lessons are age-appropriate and help build on a child’s self-esteem at every level of the educational process.

View the Research:
  • A study by Schwartz, Waddell, Harrison, and Garland (2006) demonstrated that negative effects such as fear or anxiety are not associated with program participation.
  • In a study by MacMillan, MacMillan, Offord, Griffith & MacMillan (1994) no negative effects, such as fear or anxiety, were associated with program participation.
  • A telephone survey by Hazard, Webb and Kleemeir (1991) demonstrated that parents and children who reported increased levels of fear or anxiety after participating in a prevention program were also the most likely to rate the program as having an overall positive effect, and to be using the personal safety strategies in their daily lives.


Research shows that more comprehensive programs that are repeated on a frequent basis often produce the best results.

Each lesson in Kids in the Know prepares students for learning by drawing on their past experiences, thereby activating prior knowledge. It also allows for the scaffolding of new concepts. Lessons are visited in multiple sessions, year after year.

View the Research:
  • A study by Schwartz, Waddell, Harrison, and Garland (2006) recommended that programs should be of a sufficient duration (no less than one hour and three separate sessions) to provide enough time for children to learn and integrate self-protection skills regardless of their age and developmental level. It showed that repeating programs at regular intervals may help to ensure that positive effects do not diminish over time.
  • A study by Davis and Gidycz (2000) demonstrated that programs using three or more sessions were significantly more effective than programs with fewer sessions, independent of total program hours.
  • In a US national incidence survey of children and youth 10 to 16 years of age conducted by Finkelhor and Dziuba-Leatherman (1995) it was found that the more comprehensive the prevention program material and the more programs attended, the higher the child or youth scored on a test of knowledge of safety strategies.
  • In a study by Tutty (1990), it was found that the repetition of prevention concepts in additional sessions added significantly to a child’s learning.


Research has demonstrated that safety education presented by many different people can be effective.

Kids in the Know allows both teachers and parents to adapt the lesson plans and activities to meet the individual needs of children. Each lesson comes with take-home activities, so parents and educators work together with children to make safety strategies an integral part of their everyday lives.

View the Research:
  • A study by Wurtele, Kast and Melzer (1992) found that teachers and parents were equally effective at teaching children about personal safety.
  • A study by Hazard, Kleemeir and Webb (1990) found that both teachers and expert consultants were equally effective at presenting prevention materials.


Research indicates that actively engaging children in practicing desired behaviours is more effective than simply demonstrating to children.

Kids in the Know provides multiple opportunities for behavioural rehearsal and skill-building.

View the Research:
  • A study by Schwartz, Waddell, Harrison, and Garland (2006) demonstrated that prevention programs should include high levels of participation, such as role-playing and behavioural training.
  • A study by Davis and Gidycz (2000) demonstrated that programs using active participation and behavioural skills training (e.g. modeling, rehearsal, and reinforcement procedures) produced best outcomes.
  • A study by Wurtele, Marrs, and Miller-Perrin (1987) found that role-playing and rehearsal of desired behaviours was more effective than simply demonstrating to children.
  • References

    • Davis, M.K., & Gidycz, C.A. (2000). Child sexual abuse prevention programs: A meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 29, 257-265.
    • Finkelhor, D., Asdigian, N., & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1995). The effectiveness of victimization prevention instruction: An evaluation of children’s responses to actual threats and assaults. Child Abuse & Neglect, 19, 141-153.
    • Finkelhor, D., & Dziuba-Leatherman, J. (1995). Victimization prevention programs: A national survey of children’s exposure and reactions. Child Abuse & Neglect, 19, 129-139.
    • Hazard, A., Kleemeier, C.P., & Webb, C. (1990). Teacher versus expert presentations of sexual abuse prevention programs. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 5 23-36.
    • Hazard, A., Webb, C., & Kleemeir, C. et al. (1991). Child sexual abuse prevention: Evaluation and one year follow-up. Child Abuse & Neglect 14, 123-138.
    • Kolko, D. Moser, J. & Hughes, J. (1989). Classroom training in sexual victimization awareness and prevention skills: An extension of the Red Flag/Green Flag people program. Journal of Family Violence, 4, 25-45.
    • Kraizer, S., Witte, S.S., & Fryer, G.E. Jr. (1989). Child sexual abuse prevention programs. What makes them effective in protecting children? Children Today, 18, 23-27.
    • MacMillan, H.L., MacMillan, J.H. , Offord, D.R., Griffith, L., & MacMillan, A. (1994). Primary prevention of child sexual abuse: A critical review. Part II. Journal of child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 35, 857-876.
    • National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. (2001). Guidelines for Programs to Reduce Child Victimization. Virginia: NCMEC.
    • Rispens, J., Aleman, A., & Goudena, P.P. (1997). Prevention of child sexual abuse victimization: A meta-analysis of school programs. Child Abuse and Neglect, 21, 975-987.
    • Schwartz, Waddell, Harrison, & Garland (2006). Preventing and Treating childhood Sexual Abuse: A Research Report Prepared for child and Youth Mental Health British Columbia Ministry of Children and Family Development. Simon Fraser University, BC.
    • Wurtele, S.K., Kast, L.C., & Melzer, A.M. (1992). Sexual abuse prevention education for young children: A comparison of teachers and parents as instructors. Child Abuse & Neglect, 16, 865-876.
    • Wurtele, S., Marrs, S., & Miller-Perrin, C. (1987). Practice makes perfect: The role of participant modeling in sexual abuse prevention programs. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 55, 599-602.
    • Wurtele, S.K., & Owens, J.S. (1997). Teaching personal safety (1997). Teaching personal safety skills to young children: An investigation of age and gender across five studies. Child Abuse & Neglect, 21, 805-814.