Back to School Safety Tips for Teens

We’ve posted some advice for keeping younger kids safe as they head back to school this year. Now let’s talk about safety for the older set: the high students. Although they’re older, independent and (we hope) more able to take care of themselves than their younger siblings, they still need good safety habits. They are older but all that really means is they have a new set of safety guidelines to follow.

Below we cover two kinds of safety tips for teens: cyber and personal. Since teens prefer not to be lectured to, the information below is written to them directly, with the idea that they’ll be more receptive to it:

Cyber safety
Keep your personal information personal. If you wouldn’t tell a stranger, don’t publicize whatever it is on social media, whether it’s your birth date or your vacation plans or that you’re going to be home alone Friday night.

Only write things you’re willing to have be part of the public record. I once heard a public relations professional say, “If you’re going to put it in an email, you might as well consider it printed.” That was a long time ago, before Facebook and Twitter even existed. But that same advice holds true with social media too. Even texts can get one in trouble.

Only post photos you’re willing to have the whole world see. If you’re not sure, ask yourself if you’re okay with your grandmother or pastor seeing the photo. No? Then don’t post it. That said, don’t share it or send it to anyone either. Like the written word, once it’s out there, it’s out there and you can’t get it back. And don’t think Snapchat is immune to danger. I know teens who take screenshots in order to save a Snapchat image.

Police yourself in what you share, but also in how you treat others. Don’t spread rumors or gossip online. Don’t say mean things or get into tit for tats with others. Your social media use might seem like it’s in the moment and won’t last, but it can. Don’t do or say anything you wouldn’t want to come back to haunt you later.

Personal safety
Leave anything you don’t want stolen at home. I know, you love your iPod and your new leather jacket, but what makes them your favorites also makes them temptations. I wish I could tell you that everyone in your school can be trusted, but I can’t. This also applies to cash, jewelry and anything else of value that doesn’t need to go to school with you.

If you drive yourself to school, lock your car and be sure the windows are rolled up. Also make sure you haven’t left anything tempting sitting out in the open where a passerby could see it sitting on the seat of the car—like the leather jacket or iPod mentioned above. Although a locked car is a bit of a deterrent, a determined thief will break a car window to get at the goods.

If you’re going to leave valuables in your trunk, put them there before you get to school. I had a friend put her purse in the trunk of her car when she got to her son’s soccer game. After the game, her car had been broken into, the trunk popped open, and the purse stolen. Thieves watch for opportunities, and they’ll notice if you put your valuables in the trunk in plain sight.

If you walk to and from school, walk with a purpose, head held high and with a confident attitude. Walk with friends if you can. Also watch where you’re going. Don’t look down at your phone, but in front of you. If you’re listening to music, keep the volume down and only wear one ear bud so you can stay alert to what is going on around you.

At school, lock your locker. It sounds like commonsense, but I’ve known kids (my own!) to leave their lockers unlocked because they forgot the combination, didn’t want to bother with a sticky lock, or because they were sharing a locker with a friend. Even if you don’t have anything of value in your locker, that doesn’t mean someone wouldn’t be tempted by a nice jacket or a your favorite hairbrush! Play it safe: Lock it.

That includes your gym locker. Kids don’t lock it because they think they’ll be right back. You’ll only be gone for 20 minutes or so, right? But it only takes a minute to steal something. According to my teenager, phones get stolen on a regular basis because gym lockers aren’t secure. And then there are the kids that don’t put their stuff in their lockers after pulling out their gym clothes. They leave their backpacks out because they won’t be gone long. My teen’s advice for other teens? Put your backpack in your gym locker and lock it. Period.

More advice from my teen: Make sure you have everything with you before you leave your classroom. Teens tend to be forgetful, leaving behind a wallet, phone charger, jacket or purse only to notice it’s missing later in the day. Leaving it behind means possibly losing it forever, as it only takes seconds for someone else to snatch up your stuff.

Safety is a habit, both at home and away. You won’t always have your parents and teachers around to look out for you, because soon you’ll be out on your own. Build good safety habits now, and protect yourself and your belongings for a lifetime.

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