As a parent, helping your kids stay out of harm’s way is your number one priority. But beyond teaching them the basics, like look both ways before crossing the street and don’t open the door to a stranger, you might not know how to go about it.
Whether you have toddlers or tweens, here are seven simple yet effective ways to help your kids stay safe.
1. Address situations as you see them.
When you and your child see someone riding a bike without a helmet or spot a stranger at the playground, seize the moment. Use situations like these as learning opportunities to discuss the potential danger and what can be done to make it safer. Talks like this can help your child feel less frightened and more in control of their own safety and security.
Tip: Take the same approach with the news. For example, if a natural disaster is making headlines, discuss what your family would do if something similar happened in your hometown.
2. Install a home security system.
A monitored home security system can give you and your kids peace of mind, especially when you’re not at home. Many systems offer mobile apps that let you access your home’s cameras remotely and view real-time video from your Internet-connected device. You can check to see if your kids arrived home from school safely, monitor who comes and goes, and make sure they’re not in off-limits areas like the pool.
Tip: Stress to your kids that getting a home security system doesn’t mean their home is a dangerous place to live. Reassure them that a security system offers a variety of features, including fun things like checking on pets while you’re on vacation.
3. Download apps.
Apps can help keep your kids safe and healthy. Download CrimeMapping to stay informed about crime activity in your neighborhood, near your child’s school, or around other areas they frequent. You can search for crimes by location or type and sign up to be notified by text or email when a crime occurs in the areas you specify. Add Family Medical Manager to your phone and store vital health data like your child’s medication dosages, allergies, immunizations, and more. Family Medical Manager is password protected and includes a medical expense tracker.
Tip: To further enhance your child’s safety, use these apps in combination with ICE: In Case of Emergency. This app provides first responders with critical information, like who to call if your child sustains an injury, any medical conditions they have, or medications they’re taking. Emergency personnel can access the information even if your child’s phone is locked, which adds to the app’s value.
4. Listen to your child.
Whether your child is in preschool or high school, talking with them can alert you to a range of potential problems, from bullying to medicine abuse. Remind your child they can discuss anything with you — and when they do, listen attentively. Refrain from dismissing their concerns or being critical and judgmental, as doing so will discourage further communication.
Tip: Many busy parents find that scheduling a regular time to chat helps ensure their child receives undivided attention. If your child is quiet or hesitant to talk, ask them questions about things they like, such as sports or music. Conversation starters can also help your child open up.
5. Monitor your child’s Internet activities.
Young children typically use a household computer to access the Web and filters can control what websites and content they have access to, but tweens and teens often have their own devices and much more online freedom. It’s important to remind older kids of basic Internet safety and security rules and to ask them questions about their online activity. At a minimum, find out who they are friends with on social media, what some of their favorite websites are, and if they chat with anyone online.
Tip: Learn popular acronyms so you understand the messages your child sends and receives. This can help tip you off to potentially dangerous or unhealthy behavior.
6. Have your child wear a location tracker.
A location tracker can give you the comfort of knowing your child’s whereabouts 24/7. HereO is a popular watch-style tracker that provides your child’s real-time GPS location and alerts you if your child removes it. The device pairs with the HereO Family app, which gives authorized users the ability to see the location of watch wearers as well as other specified HereO app users.
Tip: There are a variety of location trackers on the market, including ones designed specifically for tweens and teens.
7. Add mobile controls to your teen’s cellphone.
According to the National Safety Council, texting or talking on a cellphone accounts for 26 percent of all car accidents, and eight out of 10 teens admit to texting or talking while behind the wheel. Thankfully, several major cellphone service providers offer mobile controls that help prevent teens from participating in this dangerous activity. For example, Sprint’s Drive First control locks your teen’s phone when it detects speeds greater than 10 miles per hour.
Tip: In addition to driving-related controls, many cellphone service providers also offer parental controls that block picture messaging, filter Web browsing, and more.
How you address your child’s safety and security depends on their maturity and your personal beliefs; the important thing is to be proactive. We hope these tips provide a helpful starting point.
Written by Alexia Chianis
Wanderlust junky and mom of two, Alexia is a former police officer and U.S. Army Captain who draws on her experiences to write about a myriad of safety topics. Learn more