For many parents, this time of year is bittersweet. Your children are getting older and more independent with every passing year, and you have to let them go out into the world so they can learn and grow into amazing adults. However, you are not ready to throw all caution to the wind, so you want to carefully and practically make this transition from their free-spirited summer mode to a more structured school mode.
If that sounds like you, you are in the right place! Read on for our top tips to keep your school-aged children safe during the 2017-2018 school year and beyond.
1. No Texting While Walking
It used to be that a parent’s biggest mantras when sending children off to school were to look both ways before crossing the street and don’t talk to strangers. Those still apply, but now enter electronics and we have an entirely new set of concerns. And, while this may sound like overkill, the statistics on texting while walking may surprise you.
The dangers of texting and walking are just as real as texting and driving. The month of September during those key before and after school hours is when most children are hit by cars.1 To further this concern, today’s youth send more than 3,400 texts per month!2 And, you might be surprised at the number of people (adults included) who are treated annually for injuries sustained while walking and using electronic devices.3
Our first tip is to teach your children to leave their phones accessible but to avoid using them while walking to and from school, and especially not while crossing the street. Then, set the example by not texting while walking! Save yourselves potential injuries and medical bills.
PRO TIP: Headphones can also contribute to electronic device related accidents because the pedestrian is unable to hear oncoming traffic. Remove the headphones and always walk into oncoming traffic rather than with the flow of it so that you have a visual of what is headed your way (e.g. distracted drivers).
2. Make the School Bus Even Safer
For those families that opt for the school bus, there is good news! School buses are the safest mode of transporting your children to and from school, even safer than riding in a family vehicle or walking.4 The reasons for this vary – bright, flashing lights, fewer cars on the school premises, giant mirrors – and there are a few things your children can do to make it even safer.
Teach children to: 1) Be alert while waiting for the bus and stay out of the street. 2) Wait until the bus is fully stopped before entering or exiting. 3) Keep loud voices and noises to a minimum so as not to distract the bus driver. 4) When crossing the street upon entering or exiting the bus, be where the driver can see you and wait for his or her signal before proceeding. 5) Avoid standing or walking near the back of the bus – stay visible at all times.
PRO TIP: Don’t count on other drivers to obey the law and stop for a stopped school bus. Always look left, right and then left again before crossing the road!
3. Create Safety for Physical Activities
While bullying at school is a valid concern, “research shows school-age children are actually nine times more likely to sustain an unintentional injury—whether on the playground or in school—than to be the victim of violence while at school”5
On the playground or during gym class, look for properly functioning and cared-for equipment and safe surfaces. Reporting hazardous or broken equipment to the school can help prevent playground related accidents and injuries. Lastly, avoid clothing with drawstrings.
On the field, court or track, the most common sports injuries are often preventable.6 First, verify that your child’s coach is certified. Next, go over the rules of each sport with your children. Instruct them to let their coaches know when they are injured or aren’t feeling well enough to play. Find a way to keep them hydrated and always make sure they have the proper protective equipment for each sport.
PRO TIP: While most schools require a physical examination before starting a sport, be sure you are getting your money’s worth. Rather than just a basic screening, ask your pediatrician to check for preexisting conditions and cardiovascular health, and don’t forget vision screening!
4. Rehearse Your After-School Plans
We have covered getting home from school and physical activities at school, but what about after school? For most American families, there is a window of time where children are home while their parents are still at work. For these instances, create a plan and rehearse it as diligently as you would a fire drill. The American Red Cross shares some great advice if you aren’t sure where to start.7
For the ultimate peace of mind, we recommend a remotely controlled home security system and a two-way visual with video clips, texts and/or emails sent to your web enabled device. It’s the only way to reliably receive instant notifications of your child arriving home from school when someone can’t physically be there. Now, not only can you avoid relying on your kids to call but if their phone is lost, stolen or dead, you also have two-way visual communication with them!
PRO TIP: If your child tends to lose their house keys or forget the code to the garage door opener, our smart home automation allows you to let them in remotely.