Safety First

By Valerie Lemke

June 5, 2009 5 min read

SAFETY FIRST

Talk to your kids ? no matter how old they are

Valerie Lemke

Creators News Service

As the saying goes, "You can't wrap children in cotton wool." But given the array of unforeseen dangers that can befall their offspring, parents should teach safety rules to their kids early on, according to the Children's Safety Network (CSN). The Newton, Mass.-based organization, which is funded by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, works with states and communities to create safe and healthy environments for youth.

But as children grow up, the need for education never wanes.

"Most issues resulting in harm to children, adolescents and teens go across the ages. Only the focus changes," said CSN Director Sally Fogerty. For example, a youngster's fall on the playground is generally accidental or due to faulty equipment, while a teenager's fall is more likely to occur from risk-taking.

In terms of motor vehicle safety through the years, from booster seats to seat belts to driving the car, the focus will change, as does the message, said Jennifer Allison, CSN's state outreach coordinator.

Instructions for pedestrian and bike safety, such as where to walk, where to cross the street and when to wear a helmet, must be taught repeatedly in the early school years. "Kids have to hear the messages from teachers, parents, pediatricians, school police and coaches of organized sports until they resonate," Allison said.

The problem is sometimes it's not enough. "A recent focus on increased academic achievement has minimized the safety messages," Fogerty said. "Parents should get involved and help schools think about reinforcing the information again."

Fires, guns and accidental poisoning present hazards as well, but there are plenty of ways to help kids be aware, such as parents involving even young children in developing family evacuation plans in case of fire, Fogerty said.

If there are guns in the home, they require specific rules that parents should set up and teach to their kids. For more information, the National Rifle Association offers a "Parents' Guide to Gun Safety" at nrahq.org/safety/eddie/infoparents.asp.

Accidental poisonings happen when children as young as 5 years old rummage in the family medicine cabinet. It's important to keep dangerous drugs out of the reach of children. The national poison control number, 800-222-1222, immediately connects you to your local poison control.

For older kids, "accidental" is not the word when it comes to the abuse of medications or drugs. Adolescents may experiment, getting potent prescription drugs out of the medicine cabinet or buying them on the street.

"The impaired judgment that comes when under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a recipe for bodily harm that can be fatal," said Allison.

In addition to these problems, there is a big one that is ever-present in the news. Predators, whether in person or on the Internet, are a tremendous danger, according to CSN. Children 5 to 9 years old may be enticed to go with a complete stranger.

"They need to know not to go with anyone," Fogerty said. "They need to tell parents or other people in authority if they've been approached or if someone is following them."

Parents should be aware strangers are not the only predators. Often children are molested or assaulted by someone they know. Parents should tell children to report any inappropriate behavior by any older person. Safety tips to educate your child about predators are available at familiesonlinemagazine.com

In the case of online predators, CSN recommended setting up Internet guidelines for both parents and children. They could include not giving out personal information and having them share what websites they visit. More information is available at safekids.com.

Life will never be without risk. "But what the messages are attempting to do is reduce risks and make the environment as safe for our kids as we can," Fogerty said.

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