Help teens be safe out on the town
Talk to kids on possible risks
There are many parents currently “reliving” their party days through their teenagers who prefer going out to being home with mom and dad. In some ways, the world is a safer place today but, in many aspects, far more dangerous than it was 20 years ago.
Cellphones, in-contact apps, and the quick sharing of information on social media are all helpful, but parents must remember there is no replacement for good old vigilance when it comes to the personal safety of teens who want to be independent.
Charnel Hattingh, group head of marketing and communications at Fidelity ADT, says parents must proactively talk to their teenagers about safety.
“This can be somewhat tricky because teens think they have all the answers and can suss out a dangerous situation a mile away.
“The truth is that teenagers are prone to risky behavior and are sometimes more likely than adults to make quick decisions without thinking through the consequences.
“This is why parents need to talk to their children about how to protect themselves in a dangerous situation and how to avoid those situations in the first place,” says Hattingh.
She provides four “safetyfirst” steps to take with your teen:
1. Safety does come first. Your teen should know they can contact you to fetch them or to help them without fear of punishment. Have the discussion later, but your child’s safety should be the priority. More open communication with less judgment is a good way to get your child to seek you out in an emergency.
“This is not to say you condone drinking or your child lying to you, but guarantee your child a lecture-free ride home if they need it. Address the other
issues later. The priority is that your child phoned you when they needed help.
2. What if? Parents should run through a few scenarios with their teens before they leave the house about what could happen. If someone is driving them to the party and has too much to drink, what would your child do? Help them figure out what their options are in various scenarios.
“Ask enough questions to be able to assess the potential dangers in a situation. Go with your gut. If you feel it’s too risky, don’t let your child attend that particular event.”
3.Stay alert. At any social event there are opportunities for criminals to steal bags, phones, spike drinks or sexually assault someone. Tell your kids to remember this and take a minute now and then to check out who is in the immediate vicinity and whether they notice any red flags. They should take action with on-site security guards or the manager if anything is making them uncomfortable.
“Teens out having a good time are absorbed in the moment with their friends and this is what criminals prey on. Encourage
your children and their friends to always look out for each other by being vigilant.”
4. Hit the dial. Ensure your child has all the relevant emergency numbers on their phone. They could find themselves in a medical emergency, see a fire, or come across an accident scene.
Apart from family members, they should also have the local police and emergency numbers on speed dial. “Tell your teen that if any of the above happens, they should remain calm and phone the relevant emergency service to assist. They must also inform you.”
Hattingh concedes there is no textbook guide for keeping teenagers safe, but they must know and be aware of potentially dangerous situations and how to manage these.
“Children will likely find themselves in an unsafe situation when they start going out.
“Unfortunately, the places teens socialise are also where criminals find easy pickings. It’s important to have conversations about potential risky situations and how your child can stay safe while having fun,” she says.