Stay Aware and Be Prepared: Tips for Keeping College Kids Safe on Campus

When those college kids head off to school this fall, you can’t send them with a home security system, but don’t you wish you could? Maybe an alarm system strapped to their bodies to protect them from any and all harm? My youngest will be headed that way next fall, and boy would I love such a protective device to attach to her, one with 24×7 monitoring!

Sadly, that kind of personal “home security system” exists only in my imagination (and I doubt I could get my daughter to comply anyway). Instead, I will need to settle for coaching her on good safety habits to practice while on campus, and really, these are good safety habits for anyone, at any stage of life.

Two of the biggest safety habits college kids can practice are to stay aware and be prepared:

Stay aware
Kids these days, right? Always looking down at their phones, always plugged into their music… It’s easy to mock them for this, but it actually is really dangerous behavior. Kids need to stay aware of their surroundings on campus, and that means the phone stays in the backpack while they’re walking and maybe they can get by with only one bud in an ear until they get to their next class.

It’s not just being careful with technology, however. Kids also need to learn their way around campus as quickly as possible so they are always walking with a purpose and they always know where they are—and then they need to stick to the beaten paths they’re familiar with.

They also need to be careful who their friends are, and to never, ever put themselves into a social situation where they don’t know anyone. It’s one thing not to know anyone else in your biology class, and quite another not to know anyone at that party off-campus where everyone is drinking.

And speaking of drinking, this is a huge one and maybe a difficult one to discuss with them, but kids need to know their awareness (and therefore safety) level is going to decrease with every bit of alcohol they consume.

Be prepared
Kids can also do some safety prep ahead of time, to help to protect themselves once on campus. In addition to learning their way around campus right away, they need to find out about security services, such as someone who can walk them back to the dorm if they’re studying at the library late into the night, or whom to call if something bad should happen. They should have emergency contact information loaded on their phones, and consider keeping pepper spray in their backpacks.

Although you’ll be spending a lot of time and money on getting them prepared and packed for their college days, you might want to invest in some self-defense training for your child as well, so they will be better equipped to defend themselves should something go wrong.

Also consider assigning them a little “homework” such as reading through the tips in this post on preventing sexual assault, because it will sink in better if they read it (and you perhaps quiz them) than if you’re only preaching this advice to them.

It’s also imperative that you and your child review some commonsense safety tips for social media usage—because they think they’re all grownup now, but you and I know they’re not, and a reminder about ways to be safety savvy online is a good thing, especially when they will be away from home and your watchful eye!

In addition, you can do some homework too. You’re free as the parent to do your own research, to discover how safe (or unsafe) a college is based on crime statistics and student opinions, and you might use this data to reinforce the importance of good safety habits. (You might even want to make this information part of the college selection process, if you haven’t committed to a school yet.)

All kids need good safety habits, not just college kids
Good safety habits can get started at any age, and in fact should get started at a young age if possible. If you still have younger kids at home not yet headed for campus, we have safety advice for them too that you might want to put into practice. See, for example, our tips on keeping kids safe on their way to and from school, safety tips for latch-key kids, and back-to-school safety tips for teens.

And be ever vigilant and diligent with your college student kids even after they’ve headed to their dorm rooms, reminding them to be safe, because it will be easy for them to forget all of your sage advice once gone!

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