MPH Blog

Back to School Safety

Fall has arrived! Summer has come and gone, and while adults are looking forward to milder weather, children are perhaps dreading the return to school. While it might be normal to mourn the passing of summer, some children dread school because it is an unsafe place for them. In 2011, 1 in 5 kids were bullied, and 50% of those children did not report it to their parents.

Even for children looking forward to school, they have to learn to be cautious and responsible as they become independent. Since 80% of stranger abductions occur within a quarter mile of home, teaching your older children effective safety protocol is crucial.

What to Teach Your Child

There are a few basic things you should teach your child if they spend any part of their day apart from you. The first thing you should do is make sure they memorize their address and numbers for people who take care of them throughout the day (especially yours!). Another thing you must teach them is to find a police officer or adult in charge if they are ever lost and alone. While “stranger danger” is a popular concept taught by parents, it tends to create anxious children rather than cautious, independent ones.

It is far better to teach your child how to regard strangers with polite caution. Also teach them that speaking with strangers is perfectly fine in an emergency. While they should never allow themselves to be alone with strangers, asking for help is necessary—teach them that most people are trustworthy, but it is always better to be cautious rather than overly trusting. Above all, teach your child this one rule—it is always okay to walk away if they are uncomfortable.

What You Can Do

For children who don’t have cell phones, consider buying them emergency phones with built-in contacts. This way, they always have a direct line to you, and phones of this nature can be programmed for limited use. Also, make a routine of asking children about their day. Asking open-ended questions will allow parents to know when a day is unusual or if their child is troubled. Whether they are being bullied or were approached by a stranger on the way home, the best way to know their lives is to ask your children about their day.

Another important tip is to get to know your children’s teachers. In the event of an emergency, the parents who have established channels of communication will always be reached first. Not only that, but by teaming with your child’s teacher, you can ensure that your child is being supported consistently at home and at school.

As children grow, they will face greater risks as a result of greater freedom. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t teach them to handle those risks with responsibility, caution, and confidence. Teach your children when they are young how to take care of themselves, and it will grow them into independent, confident young men and women.

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician.

If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.