Teen Safety: Talking to Teens about How to Stay Safe
From the Executive Director of Crime Stoppers of Houston
Being a teen in today’s world is not easy. Teens face many multifaceted personal and social issues ranging from everything including academic pressure to their social advancement online and in their communities. They deal with dating, driving, and navigating the road toward adulthood. We also know that victimization of teens is twice as likely of that of adults.
Add to that the fear of being robbed on-the-go or at home and we realize that we have a problem.
Just this week, we learned of the 17-year-old teen who was approached by two men at gunpoint while pulling into the garage of her family’s Bellaire home. While this remarkable young lady will deal with the emotional aftermath of this experience, we are thankful that she was not physically hurt.
So what now? What does this mean for all the parents who are thinking of their own teens who are on the cusp of independence? They are babysitting, visiting friends on the weekends, or thinking of college…
The answer starts with talking. Hoping you’ll take the time to talk to your child today, here are some important teen safety tips:
Don’t be paranoid but let’s always “think safety." This means, talk to your children about the safest way to go in and out of the home, the mall, to get gas, to get cash at the bank or leave their places of business:
- When leaving home: First, close all windows, check to make sure there is no one in your driveway, backyard or near your home, turn on the alarm, go straight to your car and pull out of the driveway – don’t linger. Make sure to close garage doors and lock front doors behind you. We all feel safe at home but we also know where we put our guards down, we can become targets. Remain vigilant.
- When leaving the mall: Make sure you have your bags organized and your keys in your hand. Walk purposefully and be 100 percent aware of your surroundings. Do not walk and talk. Do not linger putting bags in your car. Do not linger looking for your keys. Do not be embarrassed to walk away from your car if you see someone nearby who makes you uncomfortable. Do not be embarrassed to ask mall security to escort you. Take your safety seriously. Side note: when you’ve parked your car while shopping – have you been sure to remove your computer or other gadgets from the car before leaving your vehicle? Make sure to do that prior to getting to your destination.
- When getting gas: Make sure your purse and wallet are on the floor of the seat next to the side of the car with the gas pump. Lock the car doors. Make sure you are aware of your surroundings and please do not talk on the phone while pumping gas – it can wait!
- While getting cash at the bank or ATM: Realize that a young, busy teen who looks distracted and just withdrew cash can be a great target for crime. Keep your cash in your wallet and your wallet in your pocket or purse. Stay focused, move quickly and be aware of your surroundings. Go straight to your car, lock your doors, put your seatbelt on and drive.
- Before you leave work: You’re working, which is wonderful, but you may be called to do odd hours like open or close a store. Before you leave, make sure you’ve checked the parking lot and that no one is lingering around the store or your car. Go straight to your car, lock the car, buckle and pull out of the parking lot. Again, no distractions, just safely get on your way.
- Teens live their lives online: Let’s take the time to remind kids never to give out personal information about where they live, go to school or their daily routine to a stranger online.
- Try this valuable exercise: Sit down with your child and go through all their Facebook friends. Ask them to tell you that they know each person listed. The “friend of a friend of a friend” who your child has never met should be removed from the Facebook “friend” list.
- Remind and re-remind teens never to meet off-line with someone they only know online. It is never a good idea and extremely dangerous.
- If that doorbell rings and your child is home alone, remind them to never answer the door for strangers.
- Make sure the person on the other side knows someone is home but that you will not be opening the door.
- Remember, don’t judge a book by its cover – criminals can look wonderfully well-kept and seem like legitimate business people. If they are unknown to you – no matter what they are wearing, how old they are or what they are selling, it’s never okay to open the door.
- Delivery of packages – these can be left at the front door. Ten minutes after the delivery truck has pulled away, open the door and collect your package
If you feel like you're being followed or you're attacked:
- Drive a complicated route or take a few turns to make sure you’re being followed
- Don’t panic. Keep driving safely. Lock all your doors.
- Dial 911 and allow them to direct you to the nearest police station or fire station or hospital emergency room.
- Never stop and get out of your car.
- Never go home.
I cannot tell you how many people I talk to who say “I thought we lived in a relatively safe area until this happened.” Crime is changing in Houston and criminals have no boundaries. They change, they move and they target all. Please, a few extra conversations can ensure the safety of yourself and your child. Let’s take the time to talk today and do what we can to proactively keep ourselves safe!
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