6 Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe in 2023

6 Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe in 2023

If you’re a parent today, the safety concerns you have for your children are likely much different than what your own parents worried about when you were growing up. Sure, we still worry about "stranger danger" or the risk of your toddler accidentally ingesting something they shouldn't, but now we have the added concerns of cyberbullying, online predators, and rising rates of depression and anxiety among children to keep us up at night.

Why You Need a New Child Safety Plan to Keep Kids Safe in 2023

Children today are exposed to the digital world at a young age, and many kids learn to use tablets and smartphones before they can even read. This exposure presents new risks and safety concerns that parents and caregivers didn't even dream of two decades ago. In order to keep kids safe in 2023, a modern child safety plan needs to address not only physical safety issues but internet safety concerns, as well.

The good thing about advances in technology, though, is that new tools are constantly being made available to assist caregivers in keeping their kids safe. From GPS-enabled smartwatches that allow parents to track their children's location to home security systems that provide real-time surveillance, we now have a number of tools at our fingertips that aid us in keeping children safe both at home and online.

Every family and every kid is unique, which means your child safety plan should be, too. Here are some things to consider—both old and new—as you and your family create guidelines to keep kids safe.

1. Make Sure Your Child Understands "Stranger Danger"

"Stranger danger" is a term you probably heard as a kid, too. Your parents may have told you to "never talk to strangers," or "never take candy from a stranger." This term gained popularity in the 1980s when alarming statistics around child kidnappings and youth sexual assault victims increased the sense of urgency around the need to prevent child abuse and protect children from strangers.

The concern is no less present or important today, and we should continue to help our children understand the difference between strangers and trusted adults. Depending on your child's age and maturity, they may have varying levels of understanding of the concept of "stranger danger."

For very young children, such as toddlers and preschoolers, it's best to keep the message simple. Teach them not to accept anything from strangers and to always stay close to a trusted adult. As children grow, they can be taught the difference between safe strangers (like law enforcement officers) and unsafe strangers. Use real-life examples and ask questions to make sure they understand.

Older kids and teenagers can handle discussions about specific red flags and be taught the appropriate ways to respond, such as yelling for help or running to a safe place if they feel threatened. Encourage them to trust their instincts and report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.

2. Teach Children Personal Boundaries and Consent

Teaching kids about personal boundaries not only lays the groundwork for healthy relationships and self-respect, but understanding appropriate and inappropriate touch can also help prevent child sexual abuse.

You can start the conversation by helping young children understand personal space. Use physical props like a hula hoop to show what might be considered "too close." Encourage them to speak up when they feel uncomfortable. Explain that asking before touching someone else is important, even in familiar ways like hugging or holding hands. Teach them how to say "no" and to listen when others say "no" to them.

Child sexual abuse most often occurs with a person the child knows and trusts, so it's important to emphasize that this is true even for trusted caregivers, community members, and members of their own families.

As kids get older and have access to the internet, help them understand how personal boundaries apply in online communities and social media spaces. Create clear rules for online interactions, particularly on social media and gaming platforms. Encourage your children to only communicate with people they know, and always tell a trusted adult if they encounter violence online or if a stranger attempts to contact them.

Discuss Consent with Teenagers

With teenagers, the conversation about personal boundaries should also extend to the topic of consent, especially in the context of romantic and sexual relationships. It may feel like an uncomfortable conversation at first, but keep in mind that it's meant to protect your children from engaging in situations where they or others may feel uncomfortable.

Start by defining consent in a way they can easily understand. Explain to them that consent is a clear and voluntary agreement to something. Emphasize that consent can be withdrawn at any time, and that absence of a "no" doesn't mean "yes." Then, you can discuss real-life scenarios that your teen may encounter and explore how to handle them. Talk about the difference between consensual agreements and situations where someone may feel pressured or coerced. Highlight the importance of recognizing and resisting peer pressure.

3. Create a Back to School Safety Plan

girl in red shirt hugging a woman with a school bus in the background

The beginning of a new academic year can be both an exciting and anxious time for kids and parents, especially for children who are entering school for the first time. Here are some tips for keeping kids safe while at school.

Transportation Safety

  • Walking: If your child walks, map out a safe route together. Identify safe places along the way, such as a friend's house or a local store, in case they need help.
  • School Bus: Discuss proper behavior on the bus, including remaining seated and keeping the aisles clear. Make sure they know their bus number and stop.

Authorized Adults

  • Authorized Pick-Up Persons: Make a list of people who are authorized to pick up your child and share this information with the administration. Have a plan in place if the usual pick-up routine changes.
  • Emergency Contacts: Ensure that the front office has up-to-date emergency contact information. Your child should also have these numbers memorized or accessible.

Emergency Communication Plans

  • Contact Information: Make sure your child knows their home address, your phone number, and the number of another trusted adult.
  • Utilizing Technology: Consider providing a basic cell phone or a kids phone watch with pre-programmed emergency numbers for older children.

4. Teach Digital Safety and Online Etiquette

Child in a yellow shirt sitting on a couch wearing headphones and using a tablet

Unlike previous generations where technology was used mostly by adults in the workplace, children are now using technology in classrooms as early as kindergarten, and sometimes even earlier at home. It's no longer optional, but a necessity to teach children about online etiquette and safe browsing practices so you can guide them on how to interact responsibly online.

Implementing parental controls is a great way to keep kids safe online by making sure they aren't accessing inappropriate content, violent games, or visiting adult sites. Try to make these controls part of a larger conversation about why they are necessary in order to keep children safe when interacting online. Discuss online risks with older kids, such as cyberbullying or privacy invasion, to help them understand the reasoning behind the rules.

5. Create Rules For Staying Safe at Home

Before leaving a child home alone for the first time, assess their maturity and readiness for this responsibility. Consider their ability to follow rules, make simple decisions, and their comfort level with being alone. Remember, every child is different, so just because the neighbor's daughter is okay staying home alone, it doesn't necessarily mean your child is ready, too.

Once you feel confident that your kid is ready to stay home alone, create a set of safety rules and resources to share with them. Here are some things you may want to include:

  • Keep Doors Locked: Make sure they understand the importance of keeping all doors and windows locked and how to use the locks properly.
  • Never Open the Door for Strangers: Teach them never to open the door for someone they don't know, even if the person claims to be an authority figure or a friend of the family.
  • Communication Plan: Have a plan for regular check-ins with phone calls or texts to ensure everything is alright. Provide them with a list of community phone numbers like the fire department, police department, and a trusted friend or neighbor, and make sure your children know how and when to call 911.
  • Emergency Procedures: Review what to do in various emergency situations like a fire, power outage, or medical emergency. Have a readily accessible emergency kit.

Before leaving your child home alone for the first time, consider doing a trial run. Walk them through the routine, practice emergency drills, and have them call or text you as they would when you're away.

6. Utilize Technology to Your Advantage

Technology has come a long way, giving us access to our children and our homes even when we're away. Resources like smart phones, monitoring devices, and home security systems allow us to communicate with one another conveniently and quickly.

Smartwatches for Kids

Cosmo smartwatch for kids

If your child isn't quite ready for a smartphone yet, you still have other options to keep in touch with them. Smartwatches like the Cosmo JrTrack™ 2 SE Kids Smart Watch are designed with children's safety in mind. These devices are more than just a trendy accessory for today's youth; they offer features like GPS tracking that allows caregivers to know their child's whereabouts. The Cosmo watch even allows parents to set geographical boundaries called Safe Zones. If the child exits these boundaries, the parent is notified, providing an added layer of security.

Home Security Systems

Investing in a home security system is not just about protecting property; it's about safeguarding your family. Many security systems offer real-time alerts sent to your phone for various triggers, like a door or window opening, which allow you to respond immediately to any potential threats (no more sneaking out the bedroom window, kids!).

Open Communication Can Go a Long Way Towards Prevention

As parents, it's our mission to keep our children as safe as possible at all times, and talking openly and building two-way trust can help prevent some safety issues before they arise. Whether it's during dinner, a car ride, or a dedicated "family time," open and honest conversations show your child that their thoughts and feelings are important to you.

Let your children know that you're there for them whenever they need to talk, whether it's something trivial like friend drama or something more serious like violence at school. Being approachable and available fosters trust, reassures them that they can come to you with anything, and ultimately helps to keep kids safe at home and in the community.