Parents and kids rejoice as Summer Break is just weeks away. No more lunches to pack, no more homework hustle at night, and less rushed mornings getting kids out of bed racing to beat the school bell. We can all breathe a united sigh of relief. With all the wonderful things summer offers, there’s also several things that parents need to be cautious of when it comes to their kids’ safety during the warm weather months.
Whether your children attend a summer program, daycare, have a nanny, stay home alone during the day, or stay home with a parent, we’ve got a few tips to help keep your kids happy, healthy, and safe during this time of year and beyond:
- Really Know Your Neighborhood — You may already be firmly planted in a wonderful, caring neighborhood where you know all your neighbors or maybe you’re newer to an area and are still getting to know your neighbors. Like Mr. Rogers said, “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” They may be more than the people you meet each day. Take a closer look at the neighbors surrounding your area by doing a little Google research and performing a background check to confirm there are no sex offenders or other violators to be concerned about. It will provide you with a huge piece of mind. Take it a step further and organize a neighborhood watch group. Work together as a team to help jointly keep your kids safe. Also make a point of not allowing your kids to answer the door when you’re not home unless they’re older teens and limit it to only people they know well. During the summer months there’s a record number of door-to-door salesman pushing everything from lawn care services to cleaning products. Ask them to never tell a stranger they’re home alone without parents or allow them into the house for any reason.
- Parental Controls on the Internet — Parental controls are a very important step for parents to keep their kids safe while online. Even if you’re home with your kids and in another room, one simple video on YouTube can pop up and expose your kids to something way beyond on their years. One minute they’re watching Minecraft videos and the next video that pops up is adult content. Apps allow you to not only block inappropriate content, it lets you choose the rating such as G, PG, etc. You can also block certain sites and set timers so you don’t come home to find your kids have been on their iPads for 8 hours straight. Consider changing the password each day so you’re in control of what happens if your guidelines aren’t followed for electronics use. It’s also important to have serious, heart-to-heart talks with your kids about the importance of sharing their information online. Be explicit and let them know the dangers of strangers trying to find out their info and trying to entice them to meet under a fake persona. Make sure they know the real life dangers out there and that you’re not trying to control their personal.
- A Different Kind of Stranger Danger — Kids today have been brought up with the term “stranger danger,” but to most kids it might just mean someone they don’t know knocking on your door or someone at the grocery store they shouldn’t speak to. Unfortunately in today’s society, it’s important to really talk to your kids about the dangers of strangers and those that are not strangers but are a danger. The challenge is speaking to them about these realities without scaring them or making them fearful of all people. Obviously you should speak to them about strangers hanging around playgrounds, public pools, and soccer/baseball fields. People that look suspicious and have no real reason to be at this spot. Tell them exactly what to do in this case such as telling their coach or other adult they trust. They should also know what to do in the event someone they do know or have met before acts in a behavior that doesn’t feel right. Be upfront and tell them to trust their instincts if an adult asks inappropriate questions or does something that makes them feel uncomfortable (touching, talking about sex, etc.)—even if they know this person or “should” trust them. Explain this could be a coach, volunteer, or even a parent driving them to practices. There’s a fine line between sharing too little and too much information, but it’s crucial they know how to handle these situations if they arise. Make them feel comfortable telling another adult or to call or tell you immediately. As a parent, it’s a good idea to check out the people your child will be in contact with beforehand by doing a simple background check (using a service such as BeenVerified.com). It’s a good idea to check out coaches, car pool parents, and neighbors or community members who may interact with your kids.
- Set-up Guidelines for Sports & Activities — Make a point of arriving and picking up on time. Never drop off your kids too early or late without an adult present. Require your kids to remain at the field, school, event, or in a designated area with an adult until you arrive for pickup. If you’re not sure an adult will be present, contact another parent attending and ask for their help. Always try to have a back-up person appointed in the event you’re stuck in traffic, caught in a meeting, or just running late. You can forge this agreement with a fellow parent you trust. You can be the “go to” person for their child and them for yours. Provide your child with their phone number as well. Request your kids never “start off” for home on their own. If your child isn’t going to attend, let the appropriate people know.
- Rules & Parent Check-Ins — Make a simple rule with your caregivers (if possible) or kids to have daily check-ins at specific times so you know your kids are safe and you can be at work without constant worry. Be clear about your household rules and rules outside the home and what the consequences are for not following the rules. It might make sense to buy a basic, non-smart phone or reloadable cellphone for your tweens and teens for the summer if they’ll be busy and away from you during the day. This makes check-ins easy and you’re able to reach your kids when you need to or if there’s an emergency and they need you. Having expectations for your kids during the day can be a positive thing as well, like having a set of daily chores that are expected of them (such as feeding pets, making bed and picking up room, reading for 30 minutes, etc.).
Have a safe and fun summer with your kids!
Justin Lavelle is the Communications Director at BeenVerified where he often writes about family safety. BeenVerified helps people discover, understand and use public data in their everyday lives. It is a great tool to keep your kids and family safe, by giving you access to information about neighborhoods and people interacting with your child. BeenVerified is a leading source of online background checks and contact information. It allows individuals to find more information about people, phone numbers, email addresses, property records and criminal records in a way that’s fast, easy and affordable.