You want to bring your kids up to be well-adjusted adults, but you face more challenges than ever before as a parent. The news is often filled with bizarre stories and it’s easy to get paranoid.
On one hand, you want your kids to be outgoing and friendly and, on the other hand, there are many strange people around who take advantage of a child’s innocent, trusting nature. What’s more many of these connections might be made online without your awareness. This can happen even if you monitor your child’s accounts because you can’t expect to read everything they write and share with their friends online.
While it’s generally a good thing that the world has become more interconnected through digital media because this closes our sense of isolation, this also means that undesirable social elements can also sneak in to take advantage of the situation. In today’s age of social media, child safety is much harder to enforce. While, of course, you can set up the right Internet security with firewalls and antivirus software, you also have to train your kids not to give away various sensitive account passwords to strangers via email, social media, or offline conversation.
Although it may be more challenging to ensure your child’s safety, it’s not an impossible task. You basically have to talk to your child about how it’s necessary to stay safe and how you are there to help them with anything that they might need.
When you have this conversation, you can still use many of the proven rules that have helped parents keep their kids safe long before the tech revolution. Here are seven rules that you may have heard when you were a child and this still works even in today’s world.
7 Safety Rules
1. Teach your child not to talk to strangers. Not all strangers are dangerous, but it’s difficult to tell the difference in the beginning. While we often think of harmful strangers as sexual predators or scammers who want to financially exploit us, there are all kinds of potential dangers. Some people may even be known to your child. A friendly neighbor might like to get into your secured Wi-Fi connection so that they don’t have to pay for their own Internet or a teen down the road who steals might like to know if you have home security. Since people are often good at hiding their malicious intent, it’s best to still enforce the old rule of “don’t talk to strangers.” It still applies.
2. Instruct your child on how to be street smart. When your child bikes around the neighborhood alone or with friends, they should know what streets to avoid. Additionally, the old rule of looking both ways before walking across the street is still important. Sometimes drivers are preoccupied with texting and don’t even notice someone walking across the road right in front of them.
3. Coach your child to yell for help if they are accosted. If a stranger gropes your child in a public place, pretending to be a parent, then your child should learn to yell that they are in danger and that the person is not their parent.
5. Explain to your child the difference between fiction and reality. Children are fascinated by fires, gunfire, knives, and jumping from high places because of all the exposure to stunt men and violence that they get on TV and at the movies. They perceive these things as fun, not dangerous. After all, the good guys appear to be having a lot of fun doing dangerous things. You have to teach your kids the difference between fiction and reality.
4. Make sure your child has your contact information. Your child should memorize your address, your cell phone number, and any other contact information they need in case they get lost or are in any danger when away from home. Your kid should also not share this information online or in casual conversations with their peers.
6. Instruct your child to politely refuse treats offered by strangers. Accepting food from strangers can be dangerous, too. For instance, a brownie might be laced with marijuana and given as a prank to see how your child will react once they get high.
7. Earn your child’s trust by setting the right example. Much of your child’s safety will depend on how much they trust you not to start yelling if you find out that they have broken any of your safety rules. While your child might love you, they might not trust you. Trust has to be earned by reassuring your child that you will take everything they say without getting freaked out or try to punish them.
Win Your Child over to Your Way of Thinking
For these rules to be effective, you have to explain to your child why you are asking them to follow these rules. If you simply dictate these rules, then they might defy them just to get the thrill of breaking these rules. You must get them to understand that these rules are not arbitrary and that the only reason you have them is because they’re necessary. Your child plays an active role in their own safety and so the lines of communication have to be kept open so that they know they can come to you if they are in any danger.