Tag Archives: college

6 School Safety Tips to Protect Your Teens and College Kids from Theft

Your teens are heading back to school, and they’ll be even more distracted than they were this summer because, you know, teenagers. That means now is the time to review some basic school safety tips, before they get wrapped up in classes and homework and sports—and don’t have time to listen. OK, they might not listen anyway, but you can at least try while they have time.

Last time, we went over cyber safety tips. This time, we offer six school safety tips designed to help your teen not to become a victim of theft. As we’ve done before, we’ve written it directly to your teen…so maybe have them read it, and we’ll nag them for you:

  1. If you don’t want to lose it, leave it at home
    Leave anything you don’t want stolen at home. Yes, your new jacket is to be admired and you want your iPod near, but taking them to school means losing them to theft or forgetfulness.
  2. Lock the car and keep valuables out of sight
    Just as you would when parking your car in any public area, hide anything of value under the car seat or in the trunk of your car if you drive to school—or carpool with a friend. If you leave a purse, backpack, iPod or some other tempting thing in plain sight, you invite a break-in.
  3. Lock your locker
    It sounds like commonsense, right? But my own kids confessed to leaving their lockers unlocked for a whole list of reasons. Sometimes it was because they forgot the combination. Other times it was a sticky lock they didn’t want to mess with during the short time between classes. Or there was the time one of them was sharing a locker with a friend. Your locker has a lock for a reason. Use it.
  4. Lock your gym locker
    When it comes to the gym locker, kids assume they’re coming back soon, so why bother? When one of my kids was in high school, she told me phones were stolen from gym lockers on a regular basis. As with the advice above, it locks for a reason. Lock it.
  5. Do a double-check before leaving the classroom
    When my youngest was still in high school, she suggested this safety tip because forgetting a jacket, purse, cellphone, charger or other piece of property can mean it disappears forever. Teens are distracted anyway, but even more so when in class trying to keep up with the lessons and homework, and then thinking about where they need to be next. If they can get into the habit of doing a double-check before leaving a room, that’s a safety habit they can use anywhere, even when out on their own.

Personal safety and security don’t just happen except through luck. And who wants to trust to luck? Instill good habits in your teens and college students now, and those habits might just stick into adulthood. Now that’s a lesson learned!

8 Cyber and Cellphone Safety Tips for Teens, College Students—and Parents

School is starting! That puts high school and college students back into the busy-ness of the academic year, as well as back into the social media fray. Sure, they spent an inordinate amount of time on their phones all summer long, but being back in school gives them even more reasons for screen time.

And that means it’s time to review some cyber and cellphone safety tips for teenagers and young adults. If you’re the parent of a high school or college student, read through this advice as well, so you’re better informed about the dangers your kids face.

#1 Keep some things to yourself. You don’t have to share every mood swing, angry moment, argument, thought or opinion. Nor do you have to post every single photo. When it comes to sharing, less is better. That applies to news about yourself too, including being home alone or going on a trip. You are entitled to your privacy, and sharing less helps to protect it.

#2 Remember that everything you do is going to become part of the public record.  Once it’s on the Internet, it’s not going away. Every email, message, post, tweet, like, share and photo might seem temporary because you’re not likely to see it again any time soon, but it could come back to haunt you later.

#3 Employers can access Facebook too, and they do. About 70% of employers will look at a Facebook profile when considering a job candidate. What will they see on your Facebook page? If it’s something you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see, it’s probably something you shouldn’t post. This could apply when you’re applying to internships too.

#4 Practice self control. Technology can make that hard to do, because we live so in the moment these days, but you can take the higher road. Put your phone away until you calm down. Choose not to react or respond. Talk to someone instead.

#5 Follow the same rules of good behavior online that you do offline. Don’t gossip, be mean, or spread rumors. If you wouldn’t do it in person or say it to someone’s face, you probably shouldn’t be doing it or saying it while hiding behind the supposed anonymity of a screen.

#6 Watch your step. You’re leaving a trail of everywhere you go. Every website you visit and link you click provides data that is recorded somewhere. Even if you’re clearing your cache to remove the evidence from your laptop, it has already been recorded.

#7 Remember that what you’re seeing online is often not real. The perfect looking people on Instagram, the pornography, the vacation photos…be hyper aware of how those unreal images are affecting your own self-image. Experts have noticed an increase in depression among teens in recent years, and some attribute that to social media. We know of a young woman who deleted Twitter and Instagram from her phone because looking at them caused her to feel so bad about her own physical appearance.

#8 Put your phone away for a while. Teenagers are averaging nine hours per day on social media. That’s more time than most people spending sleeping in a 24-hour period. Not only is that unhealthy, it’s dangerous too. Teens are at risk when looking at their phones when so distracted while walking down the street, and obviously while texting and driving, as these horrific videos show.

The Internet and social media have changed our world, in some ways for the better and in some ways for the worse. Teens and their parents can help make it a change for the better by practicing cyber and cell phone safety, starting with these tips.

Travel Tips for Teens: Ensuring Safe Travels for Your Homeward-Bound College Student

It’s only May, but summer vacation is about to start for college students across the country, and that means teen travel, as they pack up and head home to eat everything in sight, sleep for 12 straight hours a day, and make huge piles of dirty laundry until it’s time to go back to school in the fall.

Kids at this age are somewhere between children and adults, and their commonsense hasn’t necessarily matured to the point we might prefer as they set off to make their journeys home. If you’re driving to the dorm to help them pack up and get home, you probably won’t have much to worry about. But many parents have kids going to school out-of-the-area (including me!), and it will take more than a car ride to get them home. For those kids, review these teen travel safety precautions with them, before they start that trek and end up on your doorstep.

Traveling by plane, train or bus
If your student will be traveling by plane, train or bus, make sure all arrangements are made well in advance. You don’t want to purchase a ticket only to find out your child never arranged for transportation to the airport or station, or that they didn’t know they needed to get there an hour before departure time. You’ll probably also need to work around dorm checkout times and your child’s finals, and make sure travel times fit with those.

Also review basic safety tips with your college student, including things like don’t leave their bags unattended, always keep their purse or wallet close to by their sides, be aware of people bumping into them or trying to distract them, keep their photo ID and boarding pass with them at all times, sit in crowded rather than isolated waiting areas, make sure their contact information is inside of their bags in case of lost luggage, and look up from that darn phone so they’re aware of their surroundings.

Traveling by car
If your child is driving home from school or getting a ride, you don’t have fewer worries—only different ones.

Ideally, before they even left for school last fall, you made sure they know how to check the tire pressure, fill the washer fluid, and make sure all brake lights, headlights and blinkers are working. In addition to reminding them about those pre-travel checks, encourage them to get an oil change before the trip—maybe even send them a gift card for that purpose.

It’s not only the car that must be made ready, however, it’s the child too. Review the route with them. Make sure they plan to drive only during the day, with a plan to stop every couple of hours to stretch their legs. Really stress the dangers of driving while sleepy, and, of course, make sure they know not to text and drive!

No matter how they’re traveling, charge that cell phone!
Regardless of the plane, train, bus or car that will bring your student home for the summer, make sure they leave with a fully charged phone, and that they have a power cord for charging along the way. Stress that there is no excuse for a dead phone while traveling. At all. Period.

Now, go make that bed, stock those cupboards, prep that laundry room, and get ready to welcome that hardworking student home for a summer of much-needed rest!

Want to Keep Your College Kids Safe? Look to Their Phones

At our house, we have moved into that stage of life when everyone has graduated from high school and we have four kids out of five in college. One starts his freshman year today, another leaves for her second year this weekend, another is a graduate student and already settled on campus, and the fourth starts community college in mid-September. (Ironically, the oldest of the five is a teacher, so she’s busy with the new school year too!)

As the mom/step-mom of these kids, I have butterflies in my stomach for both good and bad reasons. Good because I am so excited for all of them and the paths they are on as they transition into adulthood, and bad because I officially can’t protect any of them any longer.

Which takes us to the topic of college safety, although this time around, I’m thinking of it from the viewpoint of both on- and off-campus housing, since we have two living in dorms this year and two living in apartments.

But whether they are living on-campus or off-, just starting out or working their way through grad school, there is one thing these kids have in common: They pack around smart phones. And we can put those phones to use to keep them safe.

It’s time to put those phones to good use!
Admittedly, the time to prepare your kids for being on their own is while they are growing up. It’s like teaching them to cook: If I haven’t done it yet, it’s too late now! However, that doesn’t mean it’s too late to reiterate what we’ve taught them when younger, and to add some college-specific advice now that they’ve transitioned to that phase. And after all those years of telling them to put away their phones, now we can say the opposite: Get out your phone.

Know whom to call and where to go
Every college should have some kind of campus safety office. Your kids should know where it is located, and the emergency phone number for after-hours should be loaded on their phones. Many schools also now have campus safety apps the kids can put on their phones, so they have instant access to help if they need it.

(Also encourage your kids to find out what safety services are offered, such as escorts who will make sure your child gets safely home late at night, as well as how to use them.)

Look for and download other safety apps
In addition to a college-specific safety apps your kids might be able to use via the school, check out the ones Mashable has featured as apps every student should download. In addition, the University of Arizona has a wealth of information on personal safety that you and your child can review together, including links to safety apps, as well as practical safety advice.

Beware phone as distraction
The only downside to encouraging your child’s use of their phone is the distraction of it. Kids walking across campus or home from work in the dark looking down at their phones will make easy targets. Teach them the importance of being aware of their surroundings wherever they are. They should have their phones handy in case there is trouble. But their eyes should be up and looking ahead and around. Always. In addition, only one ear bud should be in their ears at any given time so they can hear someone coming up behind them.

And if they lose that phone…
Encourage your kids to have important phone numbers written down or printed out and then stored in a safe location, just in case they lose that phone or it gets stolen. In addition, as the parent, you might want to get the phone number of your child’s roommate in case you can’t reach your child due to a lost phone. If you don’t know the phone is lost, only that you can get hold of your child, you will worry, guaranteed, and your mind will make up scenarios that are much worse than a missing phone!

And speaking of worried, looking at these articles and apps designed to keep our kids safe has definitely turned the tide toward the bad butterflies in my stomach and my anxiety level is up! Time to go hug on someone before she leaves once again!

Safety Recap as School Starts: 11 Top Posts on School Safety for Kids, Teens and the College-Bound

School is back in session for just about everyone–except for a few students headed to colleges that start later in the month. So now is a good time to recap the safety and security topics we’ve presented in the past at the start of a new school year.

Below we’ve highlighted our top posts on kid and school safety from the past two years, and by kids we mean those college students who now view themselves as adults too. Take a quick look and see if any of these topics jump out at you as something that needs review—or to be forwarded to a high school or college student as a reminder.

Safety for school-aged kids
Beyond getting kids safely to and from school, safety for kids is really a 24-hour concern for parents, even when those kids are home. Check out these tips for keeping your kids safe—for peace of mind for you.

For kids who either leave the house after you or get home before you, see these tips for latch-key kids (and their parents): After School Safety for Latchkey Kids.

Getting to and from school can put kids at risk. See these 8 tips for keeping kids safe to and from school.

Once they’re home—and you’re still not—you can keep tabs on your kids from afar. Read how in this post about keeping an eye on kids remotely with a home security system.

Safety for teenagers still at home
Teenagers tend to think they know everything. So maybe send them a link to this post on back-to-school safety tips for teens and see if they read it. If not, be a little more proactive and force the issue. This post is directed at the teens, with input from my own teenager, and talks about a range of safety issues, include cyber safety. It’s important stuff. If your kids read nothing else at the start of this new school year, have them read this post.

Speaking of my teen, you might also read about teaching teens commonsense precautions, with stories drawn from my own experiences.

Safety for college students
Even if you’ve already moved your teenagers into their dorms, you should still go over these college campus safety tips with them—a.s.a.p.

For those college students who will be driving home on the weekends, and later for the holidays, go over the advice in this post on teen safety tips for road trips.

General safety precautions for everyone
Not every safety tip is age-specific. Below are links to additional safety information, that you can pass on to your kids when you think they are old enough to a) need the advice, and b) heed the advice.

Everyone, including you, needs to read about the importance of changing passwords often and well. This post includes ways to make it easy to change your passwords without compromising the strength of those passwords.

Also a good read to go along with the post above, this post goes into how to keep your passwords and PINs safe: Security at Your Fingertips: Keeping Passwords and PIN Codes Safe.

And since kids are getting online and into social media at ever younger ages, definitely brush up on social media safety with them, making sure you follow the same commonsense precautions when online.

We’re hopeful that every one of you gets off to a safe and sound start to the new school year, and we hope these past posts help!

Ready for Road Trips? 6 Ways to Verify Your Vehicle Is Trip Worthy

It’s only early May, but some unseasonably warm weather, the realization that May is the month that some schools start letting out for the summer, and the fact that Memorial Day weekend is only a month away got us thinking longingly about road trips. Be they day trips to the beach or weeklong trips for family reunions or car camping extravaganzas, Americans love to travel by car to places of leisure and millions do so every summer. Soon enough, we’ll be hitting the road in droves…if we aren’t already.

And what needs to happen before you or a loved one gets behind the wheel to take off for desired destinations? A quick safety and maintenance check on the car. And the time to do such a check is now, not the Friday morning before Memorial Day weekend. To get your car or truck road trip worthy, do these six things…

  1. Get an oil change
    First and foremost, get thee an oil change. Even if you’re not quite due for one yet, you might want to get one now because then you won’t have to worry about it once the summer busy-ness starts. (Honestly, I don’t know where the saying “the lazy days of summer” comes from because it always seems like summer gets busier around here as we try to have some fun while the weather is good and the days are long!)
  2. Check on your tires—all of your tires
    Check the tire pressure, including that of your spare and that of tires on your trailers or anything else you might be towing or using. Whether you’re pulling a trailer to sleep in or one that holds boats or horses, you don’t want a flat tire disaster with your vehicle or your trailer.
  3. Get the windshield clean and be ready to keep it that way
    Get your windshield clean, replace old wipers and check your washer fluid. As winter rolls into spring rolls into summer, the windshields around here are filthy messes with the rain and mud and grime built up. They need a good scrubbing. You’re likely using your wipers less as weather gets warmer, and (if you’re like me) that makes it easy to forget you need new wiper blades—until the first summer rainstorm that is. Be proactive and get the new blades. Check the washer fluid to make sure it’s full. Also get the inside of that windshield clean, because that film hinders visibility when the sun comes shining through. Be ready for that sun, even before it’s an issue.
  4. Check all the lights
    Do a thorough light check. This means check brake lights, blinkers, reverse lights, and headlights along with the lights inside the vehicle. And do this for your trailer too. Replace any burnt out bulbs now before you forget and hit the road. Consider cleaning those headlights too. On some cars, the brightness of the headlights can be impaired by film. Finally, make sure your bright lights are working and that they are at the proper angle.
  5. Is the check engine light on? Are you hearing strange noises?
    Address any issues. If the check engine light is on, or any other warning light, get the car checked out now and not just before you’re scheduled to leave. Ditto for any kind of poor performance, unusual noises or even if the car or truck wants to pull one direction or the other. If anything is a small problem ready to turn into a big one, you do not want the big problem to show up while you’re on a road trip!
  6. Be prepared
    Finally, make sure you have an emergency safety kit in your car. We highly recommend a thorough one that includes all of the items listed here, but at the bare minimum, make sure your car is stocked with:
  • A portable radio with spare batteries (in case your car battery dies)
  • Extra food and water
  • A change of clothes
  • A stash of cash
  • Phone numbers in writing (in case you can’t charge your phone)

For more advice on being ready for road trips that don’t turn into disasters, see It’s the Little Things: Be Safer on the Road by Keeping an Eye on all Those Car Parts We Usually Take for Granted.

And enjoy yourself! We live in a beautiful country! Let’s enjoy it, safely!

‘Tis the Season to Worry About Teens: Safety Tips for Students Driving Home for the Holidays

If you have a child off at school, you’re likely anticipating their visit during this holiday season, and many of those kids are going to make the trip home by automobile. Looking forward to their visit is only natural, but so is being parental and cautious. Before they get behind the wheel of that car, make sure it’s going to be a safe trip home with these tips.

Teach them car safety before they leave
Before your child packs their bags and leaves for school in the fall, make sure they know car safety basics, like how to check the tire pressure, fill the washer fluid in the car, and do a light check—making sure all brake lights, headlights and blinkers are working. If you live where it typically rains or snows in the fall, checking windshield wipers is also imperative. It’s easy to forget your wipers need replacing until that first long, rainy drive with other cars splashing muddy water up on to the windshield!

Also encourage them to get an oil change in addition to doing these other safety checks a couple weeks before making the trip.

A car safety kit might be smart going away gift for this teenager, one that includes flares and jumper cables. But also add to it to other items they might need if stranded, including a supply of blankets, water and spare food.

If they’re hitching a ride with a friend
What if your child doesn’t take a car to college but hitches a ride home with a friend? Continue to be parental! Just because it’s not your kid behind the wheel doesn’t mean you can’t still stress safety! If your child plans to get a ride with a friend, make sure that they know (and do) the same safety checks as your child. Also, checking to ensure that the friend is a safe and reliable driver is advised. If you have any doubts at all about the reliability of this friend, you have the right to voice your concerns and send your child a bus ticket for that trip home!

Safety while en route
Safety checks before hitting the road are important, but so is safety on the road. Whether your child is driving or getting a ride, make sure they know the route, plan to drive in daylight only, and have a plan for stopping every couple of hours to rest and stretch their legs. Insist that they have a schedule, with a set departure time, time for breaks and an arrival time all penciled in. If they are running late, they need to let you know right away. Also, stress the importance of not driving while tired! If they have a mountain pass to cross or other hazardous conditions, then chains or other precautions (and knowledge about how to use them) are a must.

No matter how they’re traveling, also make sure they leave with fully charged cell phone batteries, or a way to easily charge en route (reminding them at the same time that texting or talking on the phone while driving is not okay). Being aware of areas without cell service and telling someone before entering them might be a good idea as well.

Since many teenagers drive home or get a ride with a friend for the holidays, car safety is an important thing to go over this time of year. It’s best to start these in the summer, before your child heads off to school, but these safety tips are helpful at any time…and some of us have kids well out of their teens who will still benefit from this kind of commonsense advice!

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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