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When the older generations look back on their childhoods, sometimes it’s easy to wonder how they even survived. Sledding down tree-filled hills, walking to their friends’ houses on the other side of town without a cell phone, and going to sleep each night with the windows wide open and the doors unlocked. It’s evident that today’s world is very different from the one our parents and grandparents grew up in, and student safety is becoming a growing concern across the entire nation. From social media dangers to physical violence, the world today can be a scary place. But knowledge is power, and we need to educate our students on important safety rules that they need to follow and explain to them why they need to abide by these rules. Discussing student safety is extremely important, so here are a few ways to do just that.
Even if the physical world were the same today as it was 50 years ago, the online world has introduced numerous threats to our students that previous generations didn’t have to deal with. From cyberbullying to phishing, there are countless threats online that students need to be aware of and protect themselves from.
Social Media Safety
Social media profiles should always be set to private, and students should know not to accept friend requests from anyone they don’t know personally. Students should avoid “checking in” at physical locations, as this can alert online predators to their location and also tell them that they are not at home, opening up the opportunity for break-ins or theft. Students should know what they should and shouldn’t share on social media, and they should avoid meeting anyone in person that they first talked to online.
Protecting Personal Information
Kids don’t understand the importance of protecting their personal information. Even information such as where they play soccer or where they go with their friends shouldn’t be posted online for the world to see. They shouldn’t give out their full name, address, phone number, location, or any other personal information to anyone online, unless they have a personal relationship in real life with that individual and they have proven to be a trusted individual. Parents should be “friends” with their kids on social media outlets to keep them accountable for making good decisions on their online accounts.
Adults who began using social media sites as adults have quickly learned about the importance of online reputation management. Employers and school admissions offices are more and more often Googling individual’s names to explore their online reputations. Students need to realize that once they put anything online—photos, status updates, comments, etc.—they are online forever. Even if something is deleted from a profile, there is often evidence of it that cannot be completely erased from the internet. Students should not post anything online that they wouldn’t want their parents, grandparents, teachers, future employers, or others to see.
More and more studies are being done to explore the negative implications of social media sites on children and teens’ psyche. A lot of students struggle to stay positive when using social media as they feel that they have to compare everyone else’s seemingly perfect lives with their own. It’s good for students to unplug from their online worlds for a while, whether by limiting the amount of time they spend online each day or by occasionally taking a break from social media sites and the internet. Parents and teachers should explain to their students the importance of unplugging and being present in the real world here and now.
As students get older, they yearn for more independence. You obviously cannot helicopter parent your child when they are driving and wishing to go places without parents, but you can set some safety rules in place for them to ensure their safety. The more you respect a child’s wishes to be independent (within reason), the more likely they are to be respectful of your safety rules and the limitations you set for them. Here are some physical safety rules for you to discuss with your school-aged kids to help them be safe when they’re away from you.
Travel in Pairs
Whether at school, at home, or out with friends, kids should not go anywhere alone. Even if it’s just a trip to the bathroom while at the mall, kids and teens should always travel in pairs. There is safety in numbers, and kids need to realize that. When students are going out with their friends or even walking to school, they should stick to a buddy system and keep an eye out for their buddy at all times. Kids should learn to look out for themselves and also look out for their friends, and when they keep that in mind as they stick together in public places, they’re more likely to be safe in any circumstances.
Keep in Contact with Adults
There’s nothing like trying to get in touch with someone to make sure they’re okay and having them not respond. Most young students have a cell phone and use it often, so it should be a reasonable expectation for them to stay in contact with a parent, grandparent, or other trusted adult figure at all times. If the student is out with friends and their plans change, they should let an adult know. They should abide by regular check-in times to let their caretakers know they are safe, and they should always respond promptly to text messages or phone calls when they are away from their parents.
Know What to Do in an Emergency
No matter what type of emergency a student may face, it’s important to have prepared them for it as best as you can. Schools do tornado drills, active shooter drills, and fire drills regularly, and parents should follow suit in preparing their kids for a variety of physical safety threats. Have conversations about what to do if the house catches fire, what to do if you’re separated in a public place without a phone, or what to do if a stranger approaches them in an aggressive and dangerous way. Make sure they know who they can trust to call in an emergency situation, particularly if they cannot get ahold of a parent or guardian. You can even come up with a code word so they can let an adult know that they may be in trouble and need help.
Make Wise Choices
While making wise choices won’t always help avoid a safety issue, it can certainly help. Students should not be drinking or smoking because it lessens their inhibitions and makes them more likely to get into a dangerous situation. They should not drive if they’ve had anything to drink or are extremely tired. They should stay away from concerning locations or situations, such as bars or dangerous areas of town. A lot of physical safety situations come about when people are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and while that cannot always be avoided, encouraging your children to make wise choices can help them avoid unnecessary stressful and scary situations.
The more open and honest you are with your children about the very real threats that exist today, the more likely they are to respect your wishes for them to follow your safety guidelines. Discuss with them what to do in an emergency and be sure to be open and attentive when they wish to discuss something important with you.