It is never, when it comes to educate the child about his own protection from the predators. A few personal experiences:
1. A friend's uncle, who was supposedly funny and all the elders liked him for his sense of humor. During adolescence, he comes and touches the chest, saying that "oh, the girl is growing up." I hated it. I did not know what to do. Just ran home and shut myself. I tried to inform my mother, she did not understand and it never got conveyed.
2. A pooja being arranged at home. Father asked me to join him to the temple to get the required things. The priest staring me and stroked the bum. And this was in a split second time when father was walking ahead of me and the priest behind me. I did not know what to do. I started walking along father.
3. Countless incidents of people touching on the streets.
It took a while to understand that I wasn't wrong in any of the above incidents and I have to speak up. Well, I was a teenager when I understood and it was learning the hard way. I had my own share of guilt, fear, fury and everything but I am glad that I dealt with all of it pretty well and am sane today.
It is a myth that boys are not eyed on. I know of a friend who too shared his tryst with one who was an older lady. I got to see a program on re-enacted crimes relayed every single day in a channel in Singapore which was produced by the police department. Coincidentally the first episode I got to see was about a paedophile targetting boys, starting friendship just by talking, then getting smaller gifts then gradually bigger and expensive toys. He then took the child to the zoo as a leisure trip. The mother too is wonderstruck in this case seeing the gifts and the friendship. Then the very next day, after the swimming classes, this man takes the child to the bathroom, removes the clothes and has a photo shoot. The child is also confused here. The mother digs in for information and files a police complaint. I wasn't even a mother then. I could relate to every single emotion of sadness, shame, disgust, anger and frustration. I promised myself that if I ever have child(ren), they will be aware of what needs to be done. From saying a firm no to shout or run for help and inform us.
Husband and I too believe very strongly believe that we cannot even predict who can turn out to be predator. They would be one among us, relatives, friends, anybody. Its a very thin line, and we cannot take any chances for the child to learn the hard way. They just don't deserve it.
We generally go by this rule that until five years, the child must be accompanied by people who are responsible and with whom the child is comfortable with. Having said that, as a mother, all I wished for Ganesh was that he should not be too 'friendly'. I have very elated when he cried uncontrollably at a friend's home, at three months. Any amount of nursing, he continued to cry. The moment we got out, he was fine. His sensitivity to new people is still there and I am happy to say the least, that it keeps him safe. At two and half years, he is not comfortable bare body in front of people, he is not happy being only in shorts too. People carrying him or holding him is not his comfort zone.
Having said that, he will start school in June and will not be home for four hours per day. We have already started telling him that if he does not like anybody touching, holding or carrying him, he should say that he does not like it. He should not allow anybody to touch his penis or bum, except for all of us at home, that is parents, both set of grandparents and paternal or maternal sisters.
I also know of people who say that the child loses innocence when she/he is told about all of it. I have seen kids who stand up for themselves and say a firm "NO, don't kiss me. I don't like it". I find them equally innocent and cute. Need I say safe too?