Summer’s almost over, and it’s time to send the kids back to school already! Families across the country are rushing to buy new clothes, organize school supplies, and otherwise prepare. While you get these things done, it’s also a great time to go over home security and safety basics with your family.
Security should always be a priority, but it’s especially important if you have kids who have to manage on their own for any length of time. Go over these home security tips and guidelines to help your family remain safe while walking through the neighborhood, entering the house alone, or hanging out around the house.
Stay Up-to-Date with Technology
From security systems to cell phones, there are many options available using technology to boost your home security.
Use an Alarm System
If you don’t already have an electric alarm system installed in your home, consider the purchase. The main purpose of these systems is to alert you when there’s a problem such as a break-in. However, modern alarm systems tend to have extra functions, such as remote alerts that can notify you of changes. For example, you can set up your kids with separate passwords and be able to tell when they get home from school and enter the code. Other options allow for notifications when someone unlocks the door and then automatic relocking when they’ve closed it. This is a great option for forgetful kids (and adults!)
Some modern alarm systems have even more possibilities, such as video monitoring. You can set up motion alerts for problematic areas such as a gun or liquor cabinet, or monitor home activities or visitors at the doors.
If you do opt for an alarm system, make sure everyone in the family knows how to use it properly. Teach your kids how to arm and disarm the system, and when to do so. Also show them what to do in an emergency. For example, the system might have a panic button.
If you can, let your kids hear each type of alarm so they know what to expect: smoke and fire, carbon monoxide, burglar, etc. If an alarm goes off, you want every member of your family to know what to expect and how to react to the situation so they can stay safe.
Monitor Internet Usage
The Internet is an amazing resource that can benefit every aspect of our lives. It’s used more and more both for socialization and for research in school. With the social media boom, kids are spending more time on the Internet than ever, and it’s crucial to go over guidelines and safety rules with them.
How much you want to control your kids' social media and Internet usage depends on the situation, but it’s important to talk to them about the dangers. Make sure they know not to put important locational or personal information on public sites and why it’s dangerous to do so. Make sure they realize how permanent and public the information they put on the Internet can be, and to consider carefully what they want to put out there for the world to see. It’s possible that what your kids put on their social media might affect future job or college interviews.
The Internet makes it much easier to find new friends with similar tastes and hobbies, which is great. However, you need to make sure to warn your kids that strangers on the Internet might not be who or what they say they are. Cyber bullying is also a concern. It’ll be much easier to see the effects of it and react if you keep communication open with your kids about their Internet habits.
Cell phones are a great invention that have changed how we communicate. People are constantly connected to people and information in a way that wasn’t available a few decades ago. If your kids are old enough for their own cell phone, you can use them to your advantage for safety. Get them into a routine of updating you on where they are going and who they are with. Encourage them to communicate with you and let you know if a problem arises so that you can help.
One side effect of cell phones is the fact that people tend not to memorize phone numbers. This is fine most of the time, but make sure your children know important emergency contacts by heart. If they lose track of their phone, they will need to know how to get in touch with important people. Make sure they know their own address and phone number, your cell number, and any other number that’s relevant, such as a neighbor or nearby family member. Also make sure they know how and when to call emergency services like 911.
Don’t Forget Traditional Methods
These tried-and-true methods don’t rely on electronics to keep you feeling safe and secure.
Plan for Everything
The most important aspect of preparing for the worst is planning out what to do before anything happens. In an emergency, there is rarely enough time to discover it, form a plan, and then enact the plan before things get dangerous.
Make sure the entire family knows what to do in various situations. Do the kids know exactly what to do in case of a fire? If you have a fire extinguisher, teach everyone how to use it. Have a contingency plan in place in case anyone misplaces their keys. Warn your kids not to enter the house if there are signs of a break-in such as broken windows or opened door. Tell them that if they do see such signs, they should find a trusty neighbor, call you, or even return to school to find a teacher.
Also establish rules within the home. Depending on the age of your children, discuss whether or not they can use certain appliances, such as the stove or oven.
Your children should also know who to trust. Instill in them that they can trust you to help when needed. “Stranger danger” is important to teach. Make sure that your children know not to follow or trust strangers who approach them. However, keep in mind that most abductions and abuse comes from people the child knows, so also let them know that they can come to you for help even from friends and family members. They should also be able to distinguish whether or not a stranger is part of emergency personnel, such as police or security.
If your child has to walk to and from school, plan a safe route with them. They should walk between locations in the most direct way possible while avoiding busy intersections, vacant lots, and desolate areas. Encourage them to walk or bike with friends instead of alone. If they use a bike, stress the importance of using protective gear and a helmet. While walking, they shouldn’t use cell phones, earbuds, or other distractions that lessen awareness of traffic and their surroundings.
If your kids have to spend any time at home alone, teach them how to behave to stay safe. Make sure they know to lock the door behind them and keep it locked. Tell them not to open the door for visitors, even delivery people. If they need to communicate with someone outside, have them do it through the door, and tell them not to let the person know that they are home alone.
Know your child’s routine, so you can more easily tell when something goes awry. Know when they go to and return from school, and keep track of their extracurricular activities. Have them check in with you, especially if their plans change. Again, technology can aid you: family locator apps can help everyone stay in touch and keep track of everyone’s monthly schedules as they fill up with sporting events, meetings, and other activities.
With careful planning and open communication, you can make your family feel safer about home security. Organize schedules, make contingency plans, and make sure your kids know that they can come to you for help for any reason. Cell phones and alarm systems can make it easier to keep track of everyone’s comings and goings, but nothing beats old-fashioned awareness and emergency planning.