What should kids know to be reasonably safe? That’s a tough question.
Below is a draft Kid-Safety Checklist for parents to work through with their kids.
All kids do need to know these things.
Who Are You?
- own phone number.
- full name.
- full address.
- how and when to dial emergency services (it isn’t always 911 everywhere)
- emergency plan for the family – where to meet after any house-only emergency like a house fire. Neighbor’s house.
- who to call for big emergencies (grandma, aunt, uncle) if the family gets separated. Someone in a different city.
- don’t talk to or take anything from strangers, unless it is YOUR emergency and you initiate the interaction
- never get into a stranger’s car, truck, van.
- not all strangers are bad.
- how to swim
- never swim alone
- never jump into water you don’t know.
- NEVER dive in head first in unfamiliar or shallow water.
- diving board safety – stiff boards are much more dangerous than the bouncy, Olympic-style boards.
- to save someone else in the water, throw things that float at them. If you do throw line, make sure you don’t get pulled in too.
- how to avoid fast moving streams, ocean currents, riptides.
Boys will find the local swimming hole or stream. I did at age 8 when I was supposed to be playing across the street. My friend Danny and I spent many hours in the woods exploring.
- crossing the road – look left, right, left again before – sometimes it is right, left, right again.
- stay off ice covered ponds
- lightning safety
- how to report a bite – snake, insect, dog, cat, raccoon, whatever, to an adult
- always wear a seatbelt when in vehicles. Sit in a child safety chair if your size requires it. Back seats are safer.
- don’t go onto someone else’s property without permission
- when exploring, take a friend and tell someone where you are going, when you will be back
- Be home when the street-lights turn on (good for non-school days).
That last one was pretty good in June when it didn’t get dark until after 9pm.
- fire safety. Matches, lighters, gas stoves and how to control a fire.
- how and when to use a small, home, fire extinguisher (you do have one, right?)
- to stay low during an out of control fire and get out of the house even if they have to run through flames or jump drop from a 2nd story window.
A house a few blocks from here recently burned to the point that bulldozing what is left is needed. Half the roof is gone and the insides appear gutted. There is a fire station less than 2 miles away, so I wonder why the damage was so great. Even if the owners weren’t home, some neighbors should have called 911.
Around the House
- don’t put anything into an electrical outlet besides a plug.
- apply direct pressure for any bleeding person.
- how to turn off the water.
- sharp/pointy object safety.
- things a kid should never touch, like power tools.
- what is likely to be hot around any house. Pots, pans, some plates, faucets.
- don’t put strange things into your mouth.
I was chopping veggies for salads at age 7, sometimes my fingers were cut too. It was the best training I know.
Computer and Internet Safety
In my mind, parents need to handle everything related to computer and internet safety. There are a few things that can be done, but most parents can’t or won’t do them.
- Kid’s computers are in the family room where Mom or Dad are always when they go online.
- Kid’s do not have a laptop or PC in their rooms unless it is not connected to the internet. A USB WiFi adapter is a great way to police this connection. Just take the USB wifi adapter away when you don’t want them on the network.
- Kid’s accounts on PCs need to not have administrative or power user access to the system.
- Technically challenged parents should at least use a DNS protection service like opendns.org to filter bad websites.
- More advanced parents will deploy a proxy server to log and filter all objectionable content. Dans Guardian is a good choice. I’d block external internet access to every PC, except the proxy server too. This way, the kids can’t by-pass the proxy to see questionable content.
- For children under age 9, a white-list of websites is probably best. Disable DNS completely and manually set Disney.com and 10 other websites in the /etc/hosts file on the kids PC. Here’s an article about managing hosts tables.
- Recognize that access to happen at their friend’s homes, but that it isn’t ok in your house.
Other Safety Items
If your family has other toys, like a boat, motorcycle, off road vehicle, pool, camper, firearms, etc. then you’ll have other safety things to add to the list and to test your kids about.
This list could go on and on.
- Did I miss anything really important?
- Do you have any rhymes to make memorizing some of these easier?
So now it is up to you to talk with and test your kids. Make it a game, but let them know this is serious. Test them as a surprise, when they don’t expect it. “Where do we meet after a fire in the house?” Perhaps you should make adding some more things as part of their birthday responsibilities? As they get older, there are more responsibilities and privileges, after all.