Aug. 21, 2008
By Glenn Rosenberg
Back to school — staying safe at any age
While the subjects studied and level of intensity change drastically as students advance through school, many back-to-school safety tips apply at any age. Students of all ages and grade levels need to get to and from school safely and be sure safety is always a top priority. The following tips can help students of any age stay safe as they head back to school:
> Bus safety – Whether it is a school bus or public transportation, safety considerations remain the same. When boarding, students should remain in clear view of the driver, and wait for the bus to completely stop before approaching it from the curb. Remember to remain seated when the bus is in motion, and when exiting, move directly to the sidewalk, out of the street and away from traffic.
> Backpack safety – Choosing the wrong backpack and packing one improperly can put strain on the back muscles and may increase curvature of the spine. So when choosing a backpack, select one with two wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back. Also, remember to always use both straps and pack as lightly as possible. A rolling backpack is a great alternative for students carrying a heavier load, but remember that it must be carried up steps. A backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student’s body weight.
> Bullying – Teaching a student how to respond to a bully, including making eye contact, staying calm and walking away, is extremely important. Additionally, onlookers should not cheer on or encourage bullies. Students of all ages should know that bullying is never acceptable, whether they are the victim, the culprit or an onlooker. Developing practical solutions with school staff and encouraging students to identify instances of bullying can help with prevention.
> Stranger danger – This term is often something taught in kindergarten. However, even college-aged students need to be reminded that people are not always who they say they are and that we should all be cautious about who we trust — both in person and online.
> Internet safety – Many students utilize the Internet for research purposes during the school year. Social networking is also a common use of the Internet as students are back in touch with old friends and making new ones. Parents should be aware of, and talk to their children about, content that is not appropriate for young computer users, the potential dangers of online conversations with predators and cyber bullying.
> Car safety – Young riders should be in age- and size-appropriate car or booster seats and older children should always wear their safety belts. Teenage drivers need to focus intently on the road and parents should encourage the elimination of distractions, such as cell phones, while driving. Curfews, driver education classes and parents setting good examples can help reduce risks.
> Bike helmets – While riding a bike, no matter how short or long the distance, wearing a helmet is critical. Helmets can help prevent the risk of head injury and even death. A properly fitting bike helmet should be horizontal on the head, with a comfortable fit. The front should be about two fingertips’ width above the eyes, and the Y-shaped side straps should hit just below the ears. The chin strap should fit snuggly, but leave enough room to open the mouth widely.
> Money matters – Students of all ages may need to carry cash for reasons such as transportation, food and other small purchases. To prevent loss or theft, students should not bring credit cards or large sums of money to school — they should only carry what they actually need for the day. Many schools and colleges are making it safer and easier for both parents and students by utilizing digital technology to help students manage their money or even eliminate the need for cash.
> Home alone – Throughout childhood, students need supervision before and after school. If a parent cannot be home at these times, a responsible alternate adult should be present until the parent returns. If a commercial after-school program is utilized, ask about the staff’s training, the child-to-staff ratio and the rooms and playground. These special efforts to supervise young children can keep them safe until they’re mature enough to be home alone after school. Older students should have clear guidelines regarding inviting friends into the home. Additionally, adolescence can be a time for experimentation and parents need to have open conversations about the illegality and dangers of alcohol and drugs and the potential consequences of irresponsible behavior.
> Pedestrian crossing – A student’s trip to school should always be a safe one. Walkers face hazards that can be especially dangerous, especially in heavy-traffic areas. Students should always walk on a sidewalk or as far to the side of the road as possible, be aware and cautious of their surroundings, pay attention to all traffic signals and crossing guards and never walk alone, especially when taking an unfamiliar route. Take note that many younger children do not have the pedestrian skills necessary to walk to school without parental supervision, so carefully consider whether or not they’re ready.
Glenn R. Rosenberg is vice president of AlliedBarton Security Services Higher Education division. Rosenberg has worked in higher education for more than 30 years as a senior university administrator, management consultant and business developer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.