Keep computers in an area where you and the family spend the majority of your time, such as the family room or living room. NEVER keep computers in the bedroom where you cannot easily see what your child is viewing.
Always monitor your children's computer time so you know what web sites they are accessing. If they use AOL's "Instant Message" service make sure they are talking only with their friends or a known pen pal. If you see an ID you don't recognize ask them who it is.
Teach them that some sites are kid-friendly and others are not, and to avoid non-friendly sites. Teach them that there are strangers on the internet who want their address and phone and will act friendly to obtain it, but may use the information against the child. Auction site users will email your child and persuade them to bid higher in order to be the highest bidder. Many of these users have little regard for the safety, privacy, or financial status of children. Besides the millions of legitimate users there are thousands of financial and sexual predators on the internet who search for unattended and uninformed children.
If your child inadvertently gives out his/her web address, phone, or home address to a stranger over the internet, immediately remove his/her ID from the internet and require a one to two-week time off period to help them remember how important it is to keep personal info confidential. Then establish a new user ID with a different name.
Report any suspicious emails or Instant Messages to your server immediately, by phone or email, and to your local police.
Always drop kids off at the curb next to the school so they don't have to cross in front of other cars who may not see them. Never open doors into on-coming traffic unless you enjoy seeing them get knocked off.
Be courteous and considerate of other parents dropping off their kids. We need to be safety-conscious about all kids, not just our own.
See Jane run! See car stop! Keep an eye out for kids darting in front of your car (whose parents ignored the first rule).
See child! Stop! Keep an eye on other children who are walking. Remember that someone protected you when you were younger and we should keep all kids safe, not just our own.
Never let your child walk to or from school alone. If you work and are unable to escort them to school personally it is important to drop them off at a friend's or neighbor's house who will be responsible for making sure they arrive at school safely. You may need to pay someone to do this, or trade favors, such as taking their child to a movie, park, or zoo on the weekends with your child.
If your child is able to walk to school make sure he/she has a friend or friends to walk with and make sure the friends know how important it is to stay in a group.
Discuss it with the friends' parents to make them aware of your commitment to child safety and to gauge their commitment. Most communities in California have from one to a thousand registered sex offenders living in them, depending on the size of the community. On average there is one sex offender per 1,000 residents of a community. Most of them are potential repeat offenders.
If your child rides the bus make sure he/she is dropped off at a safe distance from home. Many bus companies drop children off a mile from their homes to save money. If this is happening in your community let your School Board know you won't tolerate it, and let your State Legislators know what is going on, by phone, mail, or email.
When driving, pay attention and always scan the entire area in front of you.
Look for kids playing near the street and slow down. Children are often unpredictable and unaware of danger around them. Look out for them just as someone once looked out for you.
Keep an eye out for crosswalks, especially when not found at an intersection.
Watch for kids on sidewalks, especially at intersections.
Always slow down when you see pedestrians. No reason for hurrying is ever worth a child's life.
Watch for people about to step off the curb.
Safety in Other Places
Never let your child walk anywhere alone, whether to the store, to a friend's house, or to the park.
If your child rides bikes, roller blades, or skate boards, make sure they are always with a buddy. When the buddy goes home your child must go home too. Have both children come to your house and then escort the buddy home.
Report any strangers in the neighborhood to police.
Report any suspicious vehicles to police.
Never let your child use the restroom in public places alone, whether it be a theater, fast-food restaurant, park, beach, or other place. Predators watch for children who are unattended. Never let your child be alone in a crowd. Does this all seem a little paranoid? Actually, this is being aware and informed, not paranoid. The best way to know your child is safe is to always know where your child is. This isn't easy, so stay close to family and friends who you trust so they can help. Child safety is a full-time job! It takes a village to keep a child safe.
LAST TIP: Listen to your gut feelings. Anything pertaining to your child that you don't feel right about is probably not alright. If you have doubts about any person or activity, better to be safe than sorry.
Copyright © Adrienne Potter. Reprinted with permission.