For millions of kids (and parents) across the US, it’s time to face the end of summer and the new school year. Of course, for some families with school-age children, the start of the academic year is not such a bad thing – school can bring a degree of regularity and predictability to scheduling! But some children will be getting on the bus for the first time: others will be new to the “latchkey child” experience, where they let themselves in, and are home alone after school. So, culled from several on-line resources, here are FrontPoint’s Top 10 Home Security Tips for Back-to-School.
1) Be sure your child knows his or her home phone number (including area code) and address, your work number(s), the number of another trusted adult, and how to use 911 for emergencies. If a cell phone is not in the cards, make sure your child has enough change to make a phone call, or carries a telephone calling card.
2) Plan a walking route to school or the bus stop with the fewest street crossings, and use intersections with crossing guards. Test the route with your child. Tell him or her to stay away from parks, vacant lots, fields, parked cars, and other places where there aren't many people around. And remember to obey all traffic signals, signs, traffic officers, and safety patrols. Children who bike should wear helmets. Children don’t wear headphones or play hand-held video games while walking to school. If your child must walk alone to and from school, give them a whistle to blow and tell them to yell "Fire!" if someone should try to force them into a car. Also, try to use the buddy system so your child has a walking-to-school-and-home partner. There is safety in numbers.
3) Make certain that children are aware of their rights. This may sound a bit funny to you, but it is very important. If someone should touch them in an inappropriate way, hit them or verbally abuse them, they need to know that they have the right to call their parents. From bullies to bad classroom interactions, your child needs to know that they can let you know if something is wrong, without fear of punishment for doing so. Instruct them to ask for the principal or to go to the school principal's office to be allowed to call their parents. Small children can be easily intimidated and they need to know that it is all right to question any hurtful or abusive activity, no matter where it comes from.
4) Teach your child never to talk to strangers or accept rides or gifts. Remember, a stranger is anyone you or your child doesn't know well or doesn't trust. NOTE: The exception to this rule is when they need help and no one they know is around. You must teach them who "authority strangers" are: people like store clerks, security people, anyone who belongs in the area they are in. Parents can even visit the local police station to see if there are any registered sex offenders along their child’s route, if this is a concern.
5) Ask your child’s school if the computer equipment is monitored and if computers are equipped to block access to explicit sites. This topic is becoming increasingly important, not only at home, but also at school. And this goes beyond posting on Facebook about when your family is going to Disneyworld – I’m talking about your kids making “new friends” on the Internet, or seeing things you don’t want them to see. Even cyber-bullying should be on a school’s radar these days.
6) If your child is home alone for a few hours after school, make sure he or she knows not to enter an empty house or apartment if things don’t look right: an open door, a broken window, a ripped screen. Make sure he or she checks in with you or a neighbor immediately after school. Set up rules for locking doors and windows, using the alarm system, and answering the door or telephone. Agree on rules for inviting friends over and for going to a friend's house, when no adult is home. Never let anyone into the house without asking your permission. Never let a caller at the door or on the phone know that they're alone. Always have a back-up plan for unexpected early school dismissals. And remember, an alarm system with advanced notification features can send you a text or email when the door opens, or the alarm system is disarmed.
7) Know your child's daily routine. This back-to-school safety tip is very important: you want to know the time line and places your child will be - before, during and after school - every day. In case of abduction, this information is crucial. For your child's safety, you need to know all that is going on from day to day. Be flexible and supportive of any changes in the routine, just as long your child lets you know beforehand. This will make the school year safer and more enjoyable for you, as well as for your child or children.
8) Tell your children about the measures you've already taken to ensure their safety and security when inside of your house or apartment. Explain to them the investment you've made in deadbolts, motion lights and home alarm systems, setting their minds at ease but also making them aware of your efforts. Talk to your kids about the importance of being conscientious of security at home: locking doors and setting alarms when inside the house, especially when you are not home. Talk about emergency plans in the case of fire, accidents or gas leaks, and organize a list of phone numbers and contacts.
9) On the topic of alarm systems, here are a couple of scary residential crime stats: (1) the FBI reports that there is a burglary in the US every 14 seconds, and (2) without a monitored alarm systems you are three times more likely to experience a break-in as your neighbor with a system – and that deterrence starts with yard or fence signage and window decals. Make it clear you’re protected, and reduce the risk by encouraging the perp to find another target. You already know where I stand on interactive, wireless home security with safer cellular monitoring: that’s our specialty at FrontPoint.
10) Consider the interactive monitoring and home automation features available now for increasing your family’s security. Wireless home alarm systems can do a lot more these days, and one result is that you will feel more secure about a child being home alone than ever. The most advanced alarm companies offer not just cellular monitoring, but also remote arming and disarming of your alarm system, free mobile apps, wireless video services, and the notification features mentioned above. You can even lock and unlock your doors from your smart phone – the technology has come that far.