By Ed Santos, The Shooting Channel
Summer is just around the corner and I’ve had many people ask me for tips on keeping their children safe, given that activities outdoors are going to increase. Obviously an entire series of books could be written on this subject so we simply can’t cover all that truly needs to said about it, however here are a few common sense tips on child safety in general and some specific to the Internet.
GENERAL SAFETY TIPS
- Don’t let your child wear clothing with his or her name on it. A child will tend to pay attention to anyone calling him or her by name.
- Take photos of your child two or three times per year, including profile shots.
- Decide on a CODE word that only you and your child know. This is a word that your child will be waiting for if you ever send someone to pick them up. This is a word that will allow your child to know that the person can be trusted.
- Do not leave a child unattended while shopping, visiting with neighbors or friends, or running errands. Under no circumstances should you leave a child alone in a car or truck.
- Make sure your child always checks with you before going anywhere with anyone.
- Make sure your child learns his or her address and phone number at an early age. A second phone number of a friend or relative is also helpful.
- Teach your child how to make a collect phone call, and to begin with “Operator…I’m in trouble; I need your help.”
- If your child is a latch-key child, make sure that he or she knows to keep all doors and windows locked, never let anyone know that he or she is alone, and never let anyone in the house, not even someone claiming to be a police officer or from the fire department. Those kinds of professionals know to forcibly enter in case of an emergency.
- Have your child fingerprinted. Whatever area of the country you may live in, there is a program that I call “ID-A-Kid” available. Take every advantage of these ID programs.
- Know whether your child is left or right handed.
- Keep a photo and written record of all birthmarks, scars and identifying features, like moles or freckles.
- Keep a growth chart of your child; know his or her height and weight.
- Make sure your child knows to scream and run if approached in an alarming way by anyone. Your child should be taught to ALWAYS tell you immediately if he or she is approached by a stranger who asks for help, offers candy/gifts, or frightens him/her in anyway. Your child should know to make you aware of anytime he or she feels uncomfortable with ANYONE.
WHAT TO DO IF YOUR CHILD DISAPPEARS
Try to remain calm.
Don’t hesitate to call if you know in your heart they are missing. The quicker law enforcement gets involved the better. If your child turns up in the mean time, No harm No Foul.
Call your child’s friends and anyone you think they may be with to ascertain location.
WAYS TO HELP PROTECT YOUR CHILD WHILE HE OR SHE IS ON THE INTERNET
Personal supervision is the best way to protect your child while he or she is online. For those times when personal supervision is not possible the following rules are suggested:
- Make it a condition of use that your child must always ask your permission before using the Internet.
- Teach your child to never give out personal information online including pictures of anyone. Other personal information that should never be given out online includes real names, age, race, address, city, telephone number(s), names or location of his or her school (including the name of the school’s teams), family income, names of friends, passwords, credit card information. Information you send or receive over the Internet is NOT private.
- If possible, position the computer monitor so that it can be seen from the doorway. Or you may consider only allowing Internet access from a computer located in a shared area of the house rather than one in a bedroom.
- Be SURE that your child understands that he or she should NEVER enter chat areas or have private chats without your permission.
- Your child should be taught that if someone says or does something that frightens him or her, he or she should not respond to that person, but tell you right away. Your child should know to make you aware of anytime he or she feels uncomfortable with ANYONE.
- An absolute must is that your child should NEVER arrange a face to face meeting with anyone he or she meets online.
- Be sure that everyone in your household knows not to open e-mail from anyone he or she doesn’t know. Parents should always be shown any such e-mail.
- Remember that people are not always whom they claim or appear to be…sometimes adults pretend to be children.
The Internet is a place that no parent should take for granted. Keep a watchful eye on your children’s computer activities.
Using software programs that filter or block access to certain web-sites are not sufficient. Ultimately it’s up to you to supervise your child’s Internet use. Be sure to find out about the safety measures that are used anywhere your child has Internet access.
A quick word on teenagers. Provide your teenagers with an easy way out. What I mean here is, provide them with a way to do the right thing and save face among their peers. For example, if they are at a party and don’t feel comfortable with the situation they are in, they could say, “It’s 9pm and I HAVE to call my mom to check in.” They call and then can say, “My MOM wants me home now.” They get to do the right thing and remain cool with their peers. You have to do your part here as it needs to be no questions asked. If they want to explain they will.
All the safety tips in the world are not going to keep anyone completely safe. At best they are presented here to inspire thought, action and dialog between you and your family members. It is the constant watchful eye of the parent and those responsible members of our community that will have the biggest impact on our children’s safety.
About the Author
Ed Santos is author of the books “Rule the Night Win the Fight” published 2008 and his latest “Low-Light Combatives” published 2013. He is the Owner/Founder of Center Target Sports, Inc. and Tactical Services Group. He teaches advanced firearm skills and Low-light training around the world and can be reached at email@example.com.