Tag Archives: parents

Kids Stuck Inside on a Snow Day? Check Your Home for Hazards

As many schools’ winter breaks come to an end, children are heading back to their classrooms and out of the house. But even with school back in session, some states can have up to 50 days of weather-related school closures. So on days when the weather is too crummy to even play outside, how can little ones stay safe indoors with all that bottled up energy?

If your young children are stuck inside on a snow day, here are some safety tips to keep in mind while preparing for their time off from school:

Slipping or falling opportunities
Cabin fever could mean your kids are more rambunctious than usual, which could mean running inside the house (even if they aren’t supposed to). Look around your home for anything that might present a tripping or falling hazard, such as area rugs, cords or even corners of furniture. Also remind your kids about the dangers of horseplay on furniture, since a fall from a table or sofa would be worse than from their own two feet.

Falling objects
If falling children isn’t a concern, check for any potentially falling objects. Any heavy objects like televisions or stereos should be securely fastened to a wall or stand. Other hazards to scan your rooms for are objects that could be bumped into and broken if they fell, like vases or picture frames.

Hot water in cold weather
With dropping temperatures, your heat could be on all day and all night, posing a potential problem for kids out of sight. Try to keep an eye on little ones around hot water heaters, radiators, and even stoves and microwaves. Children are most likely to be scalded by hot water in drinks or baths, so be sure to be mixing cold water into anything too hot.

Even when your kids are stuck inside at home, they can be just as safe as if they were back in their classroom. When in doubt, if you think your child might get into something they shouldn’t, assume they will and prevent it. Whether the weather is stormy or snowy, wet or simply your typical winter, check your home for these hazards to ensure your child’s safety. Maybe tomorrow it will only be a late arrival instead of a whole day off…

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.

Safety for School Days: 9 Rules for Safer Travels to and from School

Although we no longer have kids living at home, and the first day back to school is now on college campuses without mom needed (or wanted) to send anyone off, I still see all the first day of school pictures posted by friends on social media. And that reminds me once again of the importance of safety rules for kids getting to and from school.

No matter the age of your children, if they are going to and from school, they need some rules. And the sooner you instill those rules in them, the sooner the rules will become habits—habits that can last a lifetime.

To get you started, we offer nine rules for safer travels to and from school below:

Rule 1: Stick to the sidewalk
For those kids who walk to the bus stop or to school, they need to stay on the sidewalk. No walking out behind cars or in the road, or even in people’s yards. The sidewalk is there for a reason. Stay on it.

Rule 2: Avoid shortcuts
Shortcuts are a no no. Your kids should take the same route every day, and walk with other kids whenever possible. Talk to other parents with kids taking the same route to get all the kids traveling as a group, even if they’re just walking to the bus stop up the street.

Rule 3: Be careful when crossing the street
Kids are kids and, at any age, they can be careless when crossing the street. Remind your kids to look both ways, make eye contact with the drivers of the cars they assume are going to stop for them, and use crosswalks. Then remind them again.

Rule 4: Put the phone away!
Kids really should put their phones away when going to and from school. If they don’t, they are more likely to be distracted and step out into traffic, trip and fall, or not notice suspicious activity. If they are teenagers who drive, they most definitely should not be on their phones! Kids can send you a text when they leave the school, put their phones in their backpacks, and then pull their phones out to let you know they’re home. Period.

Rule 5: Stay safe at the bus stop
For kids who taking bus, the rule is to stay in the designated bus stop area. After school, they should go directly from the bus stop to their home or their daycare.

Rule 6: Don’t be too early
Although teaching kids to try to arrive early to events is a good habit to teach, many schools don’t have supervision outside the building until shortly before the school day starts. That leaves kids who arrive really early unsupervised by adults. Teach kids early is good, but too early is not safe, and have a designated time for your child’s arrival, when you know the school will either be open or have supervision.

Rule 7: No dawdling
Also make sure your kids know not to dawdle after school. They need to head straight to their next destination, whether that’s home, practice, daycare or somewhere else.

Rule 8: Know the rules of the road
For kids who ride their bikes to school and those who drive, reiterate the safety rules of each.

Rule 9: Have a password
Especially for younger kids, have a password. That password would be used if someone had to pick up your child unexpectedly, say if you were in an accident, for example. If your child is approached by a stranger who claims you sent them, the child should be taught to ask for the password. If the stranger doesn’t know it, the child should be taught to yell for help.

These days it seems fewer kids walk to school because parents are driving them in cars. But kids are still getting to and from school, and still need safety rules for doing so. And since the rules can apply to almost any situation, consider making one of the first lessons of this school year safety first.

When May Means Graduation, Give Gifts to Keep Them Safe

May has definitely become the month that kicks off graduation season, with both May and June seemingly full of elementary kids moving up to middle school, and middle school to high school, and then high graduates going off the college and college graduates going off to life! Oh my!

If you have friends or family moving into a next life stage—with a transition into or out of college—consider giving gifts that put safety first, because it’s an uncertain world out there. Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be a suit of armor or anything overly pricey. There are several ways you can give the gift of safety and security with ease…

For the kids headed to college in the fall For those graduates heading off college dorms, look for gifts at DormSmart.com. They sell “dorm room essentials” and have a section of their website focused on safety and security, including both items for sale and helpful hints. (Read more about dorm safety and security here.)

For those who will be driving, consider car safety kits, or this emergency preparedness backpack kit sold by the Red Cross. Other good ideas include gift cards for car maintenance or oil changes, so they can prepare their cars for the road trips to and fro.

For the kids headed out into the world
Not all kids are headed to college. Some will be entering the military while others go straight into the workforce (an increasingly popular choice these days). And even those going off to college won’t necessarily live in a dorm, as many choose apartments instead. (If you’ve ever had dorm food or tried to sleep in a building full of immature 18-year-olds away from home for the first time, you might not blame them!)

For those new graduates who are moving into an apartment or a home of their own, an emergency preparedness kit like the one mentioned above makes a great gift. Or pull together a few basic items they probably won’t have, like flashlights and batteries and a hand-cranked radio, and make a gift basket with those. Or make a gift basket with canned good and a can opener, in case the power goes out. These can be very clever but very useful gifts, because they help prepare the new graduate for an emergency but also get them thinking about being prepared.

And of course either the car safety kit or the emergency backpack mentioned above make great gifts for your new graduate, no matter where they are headed.

More than anything else, however, make sure you talk to them about staying safe and secure. It is a scary world out there. Talk to them about intangibles like identify theft and password concerns. Be honest with them about the importance of staying safe on campus or while out at night. Prevention really is worth a pound of cure, and their schooling probably didn’t teach them how to stay safe in the first place. So now’s your chance…

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!

9 Ways Your Home Automation System Can Keep Kids Safe When They’re Home Alone

Following the high-profile abduction cases that led to pictures of missing children on milk cartons and much more diligence on the part of parents, studies show that far fewer kids are home alone these days: The number of grade-school American children who spend time at home alone has plunged by almost 40% since 1997.

Yet there are still those situations when kids will be unattended, at least for a short while, as much as parents would like to avoid it. Or the kids will be old enough to be unsupervised, but haven’t quite proved they are trustworthy before that day comes.

In either case, your home security system can help. Below are nine ways you can use your home security or home automation system to keep your kids safe and your sanity intact when your children are home alone:

  1. You can get alerts when a code used to unlock the front door, so you’ll know when your child has arrived home. If you’ve ever sat there waiting for a child to return a text message to you, letting you know they got home safely, you’ll know how nice this can be!
  2. Window and door sensors can alert you when a window or door is opened, so you can check in with your child.
  3. A video camera at the front door can show you (or your child) who is knocking.
  4. If you’ve said no video games, you can monitor the room that has that tempting distraction with a video camera to make sure rules are followed.
  5. A security video camera can also be used to monitor the yard (which is also helpful for those families who must leave a mischievous pet home alone).
  6. If your child is too young or your teenager too forgetful for properly monitoring the heating or air conditioning, you can use your home automation system to regulate the thermostat.
  7. Your home automation system can also be used to turn lights on automatically, either to make sure the house is lit when your child gets home on a dark winter afternoon, or to make sure your house is lit when you get home at the end of the day—because teenagers simply won’t think about it.
  8. As a parent with a child home alone, you can also get peace of mind knowing your home security system offers fire, carbon monoxide and flood monitoring.
  9. And if your kids need to leave the house, you can lock doors remotely should they forget.

Views about how much latitude children should have and at what age have changed drastically over the past 70 years, especially in the past 20 as we have turned into helicopter parents. (You can find a fascinating breakdown of changing parental attitudes over the decades by reading the results of this Slate study.)

My own kids are all grown and gone now and in their own apartments, and I still worry about them and wait for replies to texts so I know they’re okay. I guess some things never change, but at least technology makes it easier to keep an eye on them even when we’re not around.

Three More Ways to Keep Older Adults Safely Living on Their Own

They say America is aging and statistics show that to be true. By 2050, the number of Americans over 65 years of age will reach 88.5 million. That’s twice the number in 2010, meaning in just 40 years, our country’s older population will double.

As our population ages, we are most of us likely to fall into one of two categories: the “older adults” who want to stay independent, and the children of those older adults who are trying to support their parents in their independence.

We’ve written about keeping seniors safely living on their own before, in our blog post called Keeping Seniors Safe: 6 Tips to Keep Your Parents Independent Longer. In that post, we talked about ways to make sure the kitchen and bathroom are safe, coaching our elderly relatives on safe social media usage, ensuring the lighting is good, and installing a home security system.

We’ve also written about how a home automation system can help senior citizens to stay in their homes.

In this post, we build on that previous advice to add three more nuggets that have come to our attention with additional research into keeping seniors safe when living alone.

Prevent falls when you put things within easy reach
I’m not yet an older adult, but I still make my husband cringe when I stand on a chair or jump up in the air to reach a bowl on a top shelf. In his mind, his accident-prone wife is only asking for an injury, and he’s right. For our older parents and relatives, it’s imperative that they can reach what they need to decrease the chance of a fall. I’m not suggesting your 77-year-old mother will climb on a chair, but you never know. Mine would! (Maybe that’s where I get it?) Those things they are likely to need should be easy to reach, neither too high nor too low.

Have groceries delivered to cut down on driving
Driving is one act of independence older adults really struggle to give up, it seems. And perhaps they still drive just fine, but their reaction times have slowed and the drivers around them don’t know it, putting everyone at risk. Statistics show older drivers tend to be in more accidents. If you can have groceries delivered, you can cut down on the driving—plus the chances of a fall in a grocery store or parking lot. (If you need guidance in talking to an older relative about driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association offers excellent advice.)

Make sure they are getting social interaction while staying safe online
Speaking of driving, once seniors either drive less or stop driving, their degree of social interaction can decrease significantly, leading to loneliness and depression. Some older adults will turn to social media for interaction. If that’s the case, make sure you go over safety guidelines with them. Talk to them about passwords, identity theft and safe social media usage. Then be sure they are getting real-life interaction as well, through activities and family time. Yes, you’re busy. But this is part of keeping older relatives safe, because seniors living in isolation have a higher mortality rate.

With the population of Americans over age 65 doubling in just 40 years, chances are we will either be in that group or taking care of that group. Knowing ahead of time how to help ourselves or others to stay safe later in life while still enjoying our independence can be a huge help in preventing accidents and their long-term consequences—that make independence

Making Your Home Safe for Kids

Maybe you’re expecting an addition to your family sometime soon. That’s great, and congratulations! Or maybe you’re expecting family members to come stay for the weekend, and you need to make some quick adjustments to make the home suitable for the kids. There are a few things you’ll want to consider before both of these scenarios arise. But where do you start? Here are some things that we recommend:

A new addition

First and foremost, make sure your baby is never unattended. Take turns with your partner keeping an eye on your new bundle of joy and make sure that the baby is comfortable. Also, keep things out of baby’s reach to prevent choking. This becomes imperative as babies get older and learn how to crawl. Keep floors and surfaces clean of debris and small, chewable objects.

Second, you’ll want to consider investing in a security system. There are a lot of home security companies out there that offer a slew of different packages and pricing options, but above all, make sure you pick one with a high level of customer satisfaction. As of right now, SafeStreets USA has an impressive 7.6/10 rating according to Best Company and nearly 150 customer reviews. Contracts start at 36 months with lower monthly fees than more well-known industry competitors.

For a full guide to how home security systems work, click here.

Occasional visitors

Toddlers and small children are much more mobile than your new baby, so this is where things get complicated. There are a handful of particular things you need to protect children from, including the following:

  • Drowning
  • Electrical
  • Poisoning
  • Guns
  • Fires

Drowning isn’t much of a threat unless you have a swimming pool. If you do, you should know to keep it covered during winter months and drained if you’re not using it. If you have kids at the pool, always make sure that they’re supervised and equipped with age-appropriate flotation devices.

With electrical concerns, make sure that the wiring in your house has been done correctly. It’s not a bad idea to bring in an electrician if you’ve moved into a new place and you find that some of the light switches aren’t working correctly. Keep wall outlets covered with a plastic plug if they’re not already in use. Make sure electrical items in the kitchen and bathroom are kept out of reach.

So many things can classify as poison, from mouthwash to cleaning products. Common items that can be considered poisonous include medicine, cleaning products, mouthwash, toothpaste, or alcohol. Take them out of easily-accessible cabinets and put them in a place that will be hard to find and out of reach. If you find that a child has ingested dangerous substances, contact the National Poison Center Hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Keep guns out of the reach of children at all times. If you insist on owning a gun, keep it hidden away in a closet or in a locked drawer or safe. Instruct kids not to touch a gun if one is found, but instead to report it to an adult.

Fires can be easily made inside or outside depending on what’s available to kids. When cooking, keep pan handles pointed toward the back of the stove so kids can’t reach up and grab them. Keep kids away from the range when items are baking. Keep matches and lighters in a safe place that isn’t easily accessed.

 

Don’t Trust an Old Sack for the Perfect Gift: Questions to Ask Before Buying That Toy

Gift giving season is upon us, and for little ones, that means toys. Sure, teens and adults are happy with gift cards or cash, but children are rarely thrilled by something so abstract, preferring the immediate satisfaction of a toy they can play with right away. Even if you don’t have children to shop for, with so many children in need, many of us buy and donate to a toy drive. So it seems most of us are probably toy shopping at some point this time of year!

And that can be stressful. Walking down the toy aisles at your local supercenter may seem a bit overwhelming with all the options, and with all the new technology, toys are far more complex than they were 20 years ago. When confronted by all this variety, safety may be at the back of your mind, but it shouldn’t be.

John Hopkins Medicine released statistics showing that over 200,000 children are treated in emergency rooms every year for toy-related injuries, and 3% of those require hospital care. Although the majority of incidents involve riding toys such as tricycles or scooters, other injuries can be caused by choking, drowning or suffocation. Choking in particular is a risk for children under three years of age, as young ones are more likely to put small pieces in their mouth and their airways are smaller.

Yes, these are scary statistics, putting a damper on that toy shopping, right? But the toys you pick out this year don’t have to be a part of these statistics or put anyone in the hospital. Check out the simple questions below to keep in mind during your stroll through the dolls and dinosaurs, and you’ll be sure to err on the side of safety while shopping:

  • What is the recommended age? Keep in mind the age of all the children in the house, because you never know who might be able to get their hands on that toy.
  • Does it have sharp points or edges? When kids play rough you don’t want anyone poking an eye out.
  • Are there any long cords or strings? This may not be the first safety concern to come to mind, but cords or strings could get wrapped around someone and cause serious injury or suffocation.
  • Is it small enough to fit in a mouth? Or are there small pieces that could break off? Especially with toddlers, if it can go in a mouth, it will go in a mouth.
  • Are the magnets safely secured in plastic? See the previous question, since swallowed magnets can be even more dangerous than swallowed plastic.
  • Is it loud, and can the volume be turned off or lowered? Toys with without adjustable volumes aren’t just annoying; they can damage hearing as well.
  • Is it nontoxic? Some countries have stricter regulations on materials than others, so make sure any toy you pick up is made safely and reliably by checking where it was made.
  • If it’s made from fabric, is it washable? Spills happen all the time, and no one wants a favorite toy ruined forever by a favorite juice, plus fabrics can harbor bacteria in a way plastic can’t.
  • Are the batteries securely screwed in? If you can pry them out without a screwdriver, it might be best to put the whole toy back.
  • Perhaps most important, was it recalled? Doing some research online may save you from giving a toy that shouldn’t be sold in the first place.

Yes, this is a lot to think about for just a simple gift. But if you ask yourself all these questions while shopping, you’ll walk away with a safe, reliable, well-made toy that can last for years. And if you practice by questioning toy purchases, think of how many other purchases you could make with the same safety principles, creating established, lasting habits of safe buying?

View all of our security plans and features!

Customer Reviews

I feel so much better knowing my family is protected! I spoke with SafeStreets USA in the evening and a technician was able to come install the system for me then for my parents first thing the next morning. Very impressed with his knowledge and care!

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We had our ADT system installed by SafeStreets USA and were really impressed with the service we received from our technician. He was very friendly and answered all of our questions on the system and how it worked. He set everything up in a couple of hours and was a real pleasure to talk with []

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