It's that time of year again! Another season come and gone and our kids are headed back to school, one year older and one year wiser. As our kids grow toward adulthood we have the expectation they will become more capable of taking care of themselves and watching out for their own personal safety and security. But that didn't come without a proper amount of coaching for any of us.
Let me share with you some of the more common safety issues I see with kids during this busy season.
It's no surprise that cellphones top my list of safety concerns. Not only are the hazards of cellphone use evident for our kids old enough to drive when they get behind the wheel, but proper cellphone use should also be taught to our smaller ones.
Go to any elementary school and you will see kids walking along a busy street with earbuds in. That lack of awareness to the sounds around them could lead to a dangerous situation. They can't hear cars sounding their horns, or adults calling out to them. Make sure no earbuds are worn while around traffic.
For kids who have to walk to school in areas where there is no sidewalk, make sure they walk facing traffic so they are aware on any on-coming hazards.
Now, this one applies to little kids that bike to school around playgrounds: It's great that you have them wearing bicycle helmets, but make sure they take those helmets off when playing in or around playground equipment. There are documented cases where children have been injured after their bike helmet strap was caught on slides, swings, etc.
And then there are malls. Some parents see malls as a great place to drop your kids off for a few hours, but be aware. The purpose of malls as a commercial enterprise is to allow people to shop for goods, and many have loitering policies. Dropping your kids off at the mall to just "hang out" might result in your receiving an inconvenient call from mall security or the police to come pick your kids up.
Finally, while we do teach our kids to not talk to strangers, they have to know where to turn for help in an emergency. Start them at an early age recognizing a uniformed law enforcement officer and to become comfortable walking up to a police officer or sheriff's deputy to ask for help. Another safety venue every kid should know is the location of a neighborhood fire station that is manned 24 hours a day. Whenever in need, head to a fire station and ask for help.
A great safety resource you can find online is the National Center for Safe Routes to School. Funded in part by the Federal Highway Administration and based right here in North Carolina at the UNC Highway Safety Research Center, this program, established in 2006, assists states and communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bicycle to school. The National Center serves as the information clearinghouse for the federal Safe Routes to School program and can be found at www.saferoutesinfo.org.
New adventures are in store for our kids this school year. Let's make sure, as adults, we create the safest environment we can.