How Do I Teach My Child About Being Safe?

How Do I Teach My Child About Being Safe?

Think about the warnings you were given as child. They often invoked fear and stress. You may have been taught things like “Stranger Danger”, “You will get hit by a car”, “You will get burned”, and other similar messages in an effort to teach safety. For many, these left opportunities to see how far you could push it before you got hurt. Being honest, but not scaring your child is key to helping them stay safe.

Being proactive in teaching your children ways to keep them safe and aware of their surroundings provides them with confidence and security. There are also things you can do to keep them safe.

One of the best proactive steps is to avoid personalizing clothing, bags, or other items.  Personalized items allow potential abductors to trick your child into believing they know them or your family.

Create a family safety plan and regularly review it as a family. You can make it fun and add to it as different situations arise. Your safety plan should include the following:

  1. Home Safety
  2. Public Safety
  3. Street and Vehicle Safety
  4. Internet Safety

The first three are things you were taught, but from a different perspective. Internet safety was not something most adults have been taught. The internet is accessible everywhere. There is access to the internet through computers, video consoles, tablets, phones, and smart televisions. You many not have even considered needing safety rules for these devices.

Home Safety

  1. Personal space and boundaries.
    1. “Keep your hands, feet, and all other objects to yourself” is a good rule to start with.
    2. No touching private parts. If your swimsuit covers it, it should not be touched on or under the clothing.
    3. They will always tell you if someone is touching them in a way that they don’t like. Having an open dialog is important.
    4. No secrets. Teach your child to tell you immediately if someone tells them not to tell you.
  2. Kitchen Safety – It is important to teach your children how to use utensils and appliances as they are growing and developing, but setting clear rules is important.
    1. Set age appropriate rules around use of appliances.
    2. Set age appropriate rules around utensils.
    3. You may want to set up drawers for your child with snacks and dishes they are able to use.
    4. You may want safety rules about water, as well.
    5. Set safety rules about cleaners and chemicals.
  3. Room Safety – What rooms they can access and when. This is important especially if you have a home office or gym.
  4. Yard Safety
    1. Think about what tools and equipment you may have that need a safety rule in place.
    2. Where in the yard can your child play? Do you have a garden, pool, or shed that they should only access with an adult?
  5. Fire Safety – Inside and Outside

Home Safety

Public Safety – Parks, Stores, School, Church, etc.

  1. Personal space and boundaries apply here as well.
    1. “Keep your hands, feet, and all other objects to yourself: is a good rule to have in these places, too.
    2. No touching private parts, if your swimsuit covers it it should not be touched on or under clothing.
    3. They will always tell you if someone is touching them in a way that they don’t like. Having an open dialog is important.
    4. No secrets. Teach your child to tell you immediately if someone tells them not to tell you.
    5. Discuss bullying.
  2. What to do if you get separated or lost.
    1.  Teach your child to find an adult with other children. This is a great plan if they feel unsafe.
    2. No hiding. Find a safe spot and stop. If they are looking for you and you are looking for them you may miss each other.
    3. Work on memorizing your phone numbers. Everyone has a cell phone and they can call you to let you know where your child is.
  3. Adults NEVER need help from a child.
    1. Teach them it is okay to say “No”.
    2. Teach them to tell the person to “Ask another adult for help”.
    3. Teach your child to find an adult with other children.
  4. Create a safe word for your family. Choose a word or phrase that someone must give them if they are picking them up unplanned. Make sure it is easy to remember.
    1. Practice your safe word or phrase.
    2. Change it monthly, or once it has been used.

Street and Vehicle Safety

  1. Bike, Skateboard, Skate, and Scooter Safety
    1. Always wear a helmet.
    2. Where they can and can’t ride.
  2. Street Safety
    1. Look both ways before crossing the street.
    2. Don’t play in the street.
  3. Safe walking routes from school and other places.
  4. Vehicle Safety
    1. Never approach a moving vehicle.
    2. Never get into a vehicle with someone you don’t know and who doesn’t have the code word.
    3. Buckle up when riding in any vehicle.

Street Safety

Internet Safety

Do you know about viruses, online privacy, phishing, social networking etiquette, and other internet safety and/or security issue that comes with internet use. Technology is always changing and it is hard enough for adults to keep up with it.

An increasing number of infants and toddlers are being given access to the internet as entertainment without much though of what they may be exposed to. What does the American Academy of Pediatrics say about screen time with infants and toddlers?  In 2016, The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement: New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use. It states, “Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep,” said Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, “Media and Young Minds,” which focuses on infants, toddlers and pre-school children. “What’s most important is that parents be their child’s ‘media mentor.’ That means teaching them how to use it as a tool to create, connect and learn.”  A second policy statement, “Media Use in School-Aged Children and Adolescents,” offers recommendations for children ages 5 to 18, and a technical report, “Children, Adolescents and Digital Media,” provides a review of the scientific literature to support both policies.

Internet Safety

David Emm, senior security researcher at internet security company Kaspersky Lab states, “I think one of the key things is to start the process of discussing online safety with your children at an early age, when they start to do anything that involves the Internet.

They might still be using the computer with you, rather than independently and this offers an opportunity to highlight the fact that the online world parallels the real world and that there are both safe and unsafe things out there. It also enables you to discuss the things that are there to protect us, e.g. Internet security protection, passwords, etc.

As they get older and begin to do things independently, widen the circle. For example, if you let them start an account with Club Penguin or Moshi Monsters, help them create a sensible password and explain why they should use different passwords for each account and the possible consequences of not doing so.”

Jesper Kråkhede, senior information security consultant at IT security company Sentor states, “My first observation on keeping your kids safe online is not just to tell them the rules but also to spend the time to show them that you’re the most trustworthy person when it comes to the internet. In brief, a good line of communication with your kids, where they can talk to you and you to them is THE starting point for the best online protection.

When it comes to passwords I tell them to use long sentences. Easy for them to remember and hard for others to crack. I teach them how to check that the virus protection is updated and how to answer requests. The bottom line we’ve agreed is that if they are unsure they should ask me.

My kids use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. etc., and I have asked them to be-friend me on all their apps. The next piece of advice I’ve given them is if they are posting a picture or a comment and they think they wouldn’t want me as their Dad to see it, then it doesn’t belong in the public domain at all.”Internet Safety starts with setting up your networks and devices to keep your family safe. It is also important to be vigilant about monitoring what your child has access to. Set clear boundaries about accepting friends and chatting.

Ben Densham, CTO of cybersecurity testing company Nettitude states, “Enforcing boundaries and engaging in age-appropriate open discussions about your child’s online activities will encourage your young cyber minds to learn the benefits and realize the dangers of the internet. It is important to begin these conversations with your children from an early age, in order to protect them from risks that they may not yet understand and to prepare them to face and manage the threats.

Boundaries are often seen as restrictive and draconian by kids. But boundaries also bring freedom. They provide a clear understanding of what is safe and secure. Boundaries tell them where they are free to explore and roam.

When it comes to learning to protect their privacy, discussing their use of social media is a good place to start. As the use of these platforms is now so widespread, it is important to put in place methods to prevent unsuitable content and talk to your children about the dangers of forming relationships with strangers online, as well as the importance of preventing personal information from being made public.

This is particularly important as children get older, when parents will need to relinquish some control and cannot enforce those safety boundaries in the same way.”

McGruff Safe Kids 10 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

  1. Don’t give anyone your password, name, address, the name of your school or any information about your family
  2. Don’t talk to strangers on the Internet
  3. Don’t agree to meet anyone in person that you’ve met online
  4. Don’t fill in a profile that asks for your name and address
  5. Don’t visit a chat room without an adult’s / parent’s permission
  6. Don’t stay online if you see something you think your parents won’t like
  7. Don’t post pictures of yourself without your parents’ permission
  8. Do not download or install anything on your computer without your parents’ permission
  9. If you have any questions about something you read, ask your parent or guardian
  10. If you are talking to someone online and they make you uncomfortable, remember you don’t have to talk back to them

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Books that can help you teach safety to your child:

Your Body Belongs to You

Let's Talk About Body Boundaries, Consent and Respect

Monty the Manatee: A book about kindness and anti-bullying

Signs in My Neighborhood


Safety Rules for Every Family

How do I keep my children safe online? What the security experts tell their kids

American Academy of Pediatrics Announces New Recommendations for Children’s Media Use

10 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

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