The safety of our children is an important topic that should be discussed all year round – not just during school holidays, and not just during Youth Month.
That’s according to private security company Fidelity ADT, who this week released tips and advice for parents and guardians who want to ensure the safety of their children.
“Personal safety simply must be part of your child’s education. If we can teach them how to be able to fend for themselves throughout the year, we don’t have to start from scratch when a long end-of-year holiday arrives. These measures have to be constantly reinforced too,” says Fidelity ADT’s district manager for Cape Town North, Verena Hulme.
“It starts at home. Your kids must know to always keep all entrances and gates closed and locked and that nobody is allowed to enter without permission from either parent. If you have a home security system installed teach them how to activate and deactivate it and how and when to use other security devices like panic buttons.”
Hulme adds that it is a good idea to have a list of emergency contact numbers available and that your children know who to contact if they need help. The telephone numbers for the local police station, your private security company, the emergency number for your neighbourhood watch, and possibly a trusted neighbour should definitely be on that list.
“If your child must leave the safety of your home for whatever reason, make sure they tell you where they are going and when they are expected to arrive. We recommend testing any routes with your children ahead of time to make sure they don’t inadvertently choose a road or area that is fraught with potential risks. Try and identity any ‘safe spaces’ (such as a trusted neighbour) along the route where your child could call for help in case they need it,” she says.
“Instead of starting these safety training sessions anew, it makes more sense to instil a sense of responsibility with your children that they follow throughout the year. As much as we would love to look after our children 24/7, there will come a time when they have to fend for themselves. We have to prepare and equip them.”
Public spaces – such as shopping malls – are also an area for which your children should be prepared.
“Teach your children to memorise their name, surname, home address and contact details for one of their parents. Also make sure they know that if they do become separated from you, that they immediately look for mall security and give them the information they have memorized. “
Hulme also recommends agreeing on a code word with children which would be used in a situation where someone else needs to fetch them from home or from a place they had been visiting. “This code word would be a sign that the person collecting them has genuinely been sent by a parent and could be trusted.”
Finding fun ways to test that your children understand these safety tips and know how to look after themselves, she says, will be a productive way to prepare your children for the possible dangers they might encounter.
Here are a few tips worth sharing with children to ensure they stay safe:
- Always walk to or from school with a friend or friends. Stick to streets you know and never take short cuts through quiet areas or empty parking lots.
- Many communities have started ‘walking bus’ safety initiatives, where community members walk in convoy with children to and from school. If such an initiative exists in your community, make use of it or consider starting one.
- If you get picked up at school, never leave the school premises but always wait inside the school-grounds for your lift to arrive.
- Never get into a stranger’s car; even if the stranger claims that someone you love is hurt and that they are supposed to pick you up. Remember that your parents would never send someone you don’t know to fetch you.
- If a stranger approaches you, don’t talk to them no matter how friendly they may seem. If someone tries to grab you, fight, kick and scream that the person is not your parent.