Child Safety: don’t let your guard down!

Safety for our children is among the number one concern of parents.  Yet, time and time again, I am witness to some really bad choices made by parents.  Whether it’s letting your 6 year old roam the toy store by himself or allowing a child to run through a parking lot, the lack of common sense never ceases to amaze me.

There are several areas I’d like to touch upon when discussing safety and your children under the age of 12.

  • age appropriateness
  • vacation
  • safety equipment/clothing
  • birthday parties
  • things to teach your child if lost/approached by strangers

Age Appropriateness

There many schools of thought on what age kids should be afforded certain freedoms.  When can my child use the restroom by himself at a restaurant or mall? When can my child ride down the block on his bike to a friends house by himself?  At what age can I leave my child in the car while I run in to pickup my dry cleaning?  These are all very good questions, and of course there is some gray area on the answer.  But there is also, in my opinion, an over abundance of bad parental choices.  For my 6 year old, the answer to all of those questions is that he is not old enough. Your child needs to be mature enough to make good decisions, old enough to defend himself and confident enough to ward off any stranger that he does not know.

There are too many unstable people in this world that may look nice on the outside, but are heinous individuals on the inside.  They know where to prey on what they want (toy stores, bathrooms, amusement parks, bounce houses, pizza/game chains etc…) Unfortunately, these people are impossible to detect until it is too late.

Vacation

Oye!  What people will do when on vacation that they would never consider at home!  The amount of false sense of security that I witness while vacationing is blistering.  Just because you are on vacation does not mean you are any safer than at home.  We vacation at the beach a lot.  It is staggering to see the number of people who leave their rental houses unlocked and doors wide open, whether they are there or not!  Would you do that at home?  Or people letting their under 9 year-olds roam free around a resort because it’s “gated” and there is “security.”  Do not let your guard don just because you are on vacation!

Safety equipment/clothing

Please spend the money on new (not used/second hand) sports safety equipment such as helmets for bikes or head gear, knee pads, elbow pads and wrist guards for skateboarding, in-line skating, scooters etc… I say new, because you never know what has happened to old equipment.  It may have been recalled, it could have been improved, it may be getting brittle with age, it may have had specific use instructions that are no longer with that item or it could harbor fungus or lice.  There are many ways to save, but buying used sport protection equipment is not one of them.  The younger a child is made to wear safety equipment, the less resistance you will get wearing it.

For boys of any age playing sports – GET THEM A CUP!  Permanent damage can happen at any age – I assume you want grandchildren.  Shock Doctor makes very comfortable Youth protective equipment.

For young kids, do not put them in clothes with their name on the outside!  it is an open invitation for a predator to make personal, friendly contact with him.  “Hey, Johnny, remember me?  It’s been a while.  I know your mom and dad, come with me and we can look for them so I can say hi!”  this is NOT a scenario you want to invite.  Having a name across the back of a jersey may be cute, but from a safety standpoint, not smart!

Birthday parties

Like vacations, birthday parties somehow give parents a false sense of security.  It may seem great that you can drop off you child and have 2-3 hours of time to run uninterrupted errands, but assess the situation first.  If it is at a house, sure, no problem.  The parents are there and attentive (hopefully).  But if your child is invited to a party at a pizza/game chain, bounce house chain or other openly public facility, it may be best to stick with them.  Too many time I see these business make a half-hearted effort at pairing a child with a parent via matching hand stamps.  If they don’t match on the way out, then it’s cause for alarm.  However, I have seen on several occasions where it is so busy, the staff is distracted and are not always manning the door!

Not only do you have to assess the situation from a stranger safety perspective, but also a personal safety perspective.  Are there larger kids and adults playing on the same equipment as 4 and 5 year olds?  Is safety equipment required or provided?  Do the activities look age appropriate.  These are all things to consider.  Check out the website of the venue prior to committing to attending the party.  If something doesn’t sit right with you, skip it.

Things to teach your kids if lost/approached by a stranger

Of course the number one, easier said than done, thing to do is not to panic and stay calm. Teach your child that if they are lost in a mall, store, amusement park, etc. to go to someone who obviously works there, like a cashier, or concession worker, especially if a guard or law enforcement official are not present.

If they are approached by a stranger and you are not around, raising attention of others around them will help scare them away.  Yelling “STOP, YOUR NOT MY DAD!” will certainly turn heads.  Mom’s with kids are another fairly safe bet when there is not a police authority to go to.  A mom with a stroller and a toddler in tow will certainly help a lost/scared child.

These scenarios are all for public, crowded places.  Kids escape even the most attentive parents, especially with tons of distractions and crowds.

Garmin(R) GTU 10 tracker

This is a great tool for additional piece of mind in crowded areas like amusement parks, concerts, or when you leave your child in the care of others.  This small unit fits in a pocket allowing you to track the wearer via a smartphone app. Limited service is free, full service is a nominal monthly charge that allows you to track in real time!

Share your tips and stories in the comment section!