- MAKE SURE children know their full names, address, telephone numbers and how to use the telephone.
- BE SURE children know what to do in case of an emergency and how to reach you using cell phone or pager number. Children should have a neighbor or trusted adult they may call if they're scared or there's an emergency.
- REVIEW the rules with your children about whose homes they may visit and discuss the boundaries of where they may and may not go in the neighborhood.
- MAKE SURE children know to stay away from pools, creeks, or any body of water without adult supervision
- CAUTION children to keep the door locked and not to open the door or talk to anyone who comes to the door when they are home alone.
- DON'T drop your children off at malls, movies, video arcades or parks. These are not safe places for children to be alone. Make certain a responsible adult supervises your younger children at all times when they are outside and away from home.
- TEACH your children in whose vehicle they may ride. Children should be cautioned to never approach any vehicle, occupied or not, unless accompanied by a parent or other trusted adult.
- BE SURE your children know their curfew and check in with you if they are going to be late. If children are playing outside after dark, make sure they wear reflective clothing and stay close to home.
- CHOOSE babysitters with care. Obtain references from family, friends, and neighbors. Many states now have registries for public access to check criminal history or sex-offender status. Observe the babysitter's interaction with your children, and ask your children how they feel about the babysitter.
- CHECK out camp and other summer programs before enrolling your children. See if a background screening check is completed on the individuals working with the children. Make sure there will be adult supervision of your children at all times, and make sure you are made aware of all activities and field trips offered by the camp or program.
But what about teenagers?
I always recommend that parents pay close attention to the whereabouts of younger teenagers. Middle-schoolers in particular are more likely than younger children to be home alone during the summer. Ages of 12 to 15 are riskier due to lack of experience, immature decision-making, and an overwhelming desire to spend time with peers. They are more likely to have friends over while parents are at work, go somewhere without permission, and be enticed into forbidden activities by older teens they meet at the mall or other teen hang-outs. Because younger teens can't anticipate negative consequences that may arise in social situations, they are more likely than older teenagers to end up in unsafe circumstances beyond their control.
Some common-sense tips:
Contact friends' parents to confirm plans and adult supervision. Don't trust the older siblings of your child's friends to be good supervisors. Chaperone or discreetly shadow your teenager at the mall, movies, and other public venues.
Don't rely only on cell phone contact from your teen. It's too easy for them to disguise their location. Call home numbers to confirm your teen's whereabouts.
Don't make it too easy for teens to predict your schedule. Come home early once in awhile, drop by unexpectedly, and call at unpredictable times. This prevents them being able to count on leaving and getting back before you come home from work.
Assume you have to double-check all plans. At the same time, avoid giving your teen the impression that you don't trust him. Let her think that you are an anxious and over-protective parent. This will decrease power struggles and help your teen save face when he has to decline an invitation that breaks your rules.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also has a summer safety tip sheet for kids. Although written for children, the tips can still apply to young teens.
Please share any other parent tips you might have for child and teen safety and have a safe summer!