Kids just want to have fun. And that’s what they should do, especially in the summer. But there are tips parents can use to keep their children safe at home, in the neighborhood, and in the world.
NOWADAYS, many families have a computer that kids of all ages can use. But Tim Lordan of “Get Net Ready” says there are dangers online that parents need to know about.
“First and foremost you need to pick your battles,” he said. “And the biggest one is keeping your kids safe from predators. The best tip for parents is to teach your kids never to divulge personal information about themselves online.”
For grade schoolers, that can be accomplished by screening sites first and putting the computer in a place where parents can monitor them. But for older kids, parents need to try something different.
“Consider using some kinds of tools,” he said. “There are a lot of different tools out there that parents can use, that can filter out inappropriate content, prevent children from divulging personal information about themselves or even how much time they spend online.”
But with the weather warming up, parents can count on kids heading outdoors, to playgrounds and pools — places experts say parents need to check out for safety ahead of time. Is the playground age appropriate? Are there qualified lifeguards at a pool?
And as for strangers kids may encounter in the neighborhood, there are skills every child can learn, according to karate instructor Dave Kovar.
“One of the things we would cover is the ABC’s of conflict avoidance,” he said. “These are simple steps to help kids recognize and avoid trouble. ‘A,’ for example, ‘A’ stands for ‘avoid a potentially dangerous situation’ — we’ll go through what is a potentially dangerous situation. ‘B’ stands for ‘be calm, breathe’ — if ever confronted, what they want to do is keep a clear head. ‘C’ is for ‘communicate with confidence,’ and we role play with them how they carry themselves and communicate with confidence.”
Kovar says the most important skill isn’t a punch or kick, but knowing four simple words.
“No, go, yell, tell,” he said. “I’d go run and tell a responsible adult like a mother with children, a police officer, an employee.”
Kids may be able to protect themselves in some situations, but in others, parents need to take the lead. That’s what the government suggests when it comes to taking some basic steps towards making sure your family could cope with a terrorist attack.
“Figuring out how to contact each other, and then what the plan is should something happen: I think that is the most important thing,” said Susan Neely, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
That includes asking questions at daycare, camps and schools.
“If your school is not bugging you,” said Neely, “asking you for your contact information or affirmatively telling you that they have a plan in place, then you should be asking that school principal, ‘What are you going to do if something happens and I cant get there right away?”
Most importantly, experts say, parents should have age-appropriate conversations with their children.
“You just don’t want to go into intense emotions,” said Dr. Rosemary Schwartzbard, a clinical psychologist in Alexandria, Va. “You want to be matter-of-fact. And with children of every age you want to give reassurance, and you really don’t want to be focused on danger. You want to reassure that there is a very, very small probability that something will happen to them — that their schools and their homes are safe places to be.”