7 Back to School Safety Tips for Kids

7 Back to School Safety Tips for Kids Main Smart Kids 101Pop Quiz: When was the last time you talked to your kids about school safety?

Don’t worry! In many families, safety for kids is one of those topics that sometimes gets placed on the back burner. We all have good intentions, but it’s easy to put off seemingly-difficult conversations like this.

Believe me, I am the last person to send you on a guilt trip. Quite the contrary!

Because safety for kids is so important, we want to make it easy for you to talk to your kids about school safety. And back to school is a great time to check in and brush up on some of these school safety topics.

Simply follow the guidelines below as your recipe for back to school safety success, and you’ll be off to a great start this school year.

1. Back to School Pictures on Social Media

It’s back to school tradition to take a photo of your child on his or her first day. And there are lots of cute ideas out there to preserve those memories! But this day and age, parents are doing something they’ve never done before, and it could put their children at risk! 

What is it?

Posting that photo on social media.

Now don’t get me wrong. I took a photo of my child on his first day and shared it with my friends. It’s fun, and grandparents and other family scattered across the country (hi, family!) want to see it. But as it pertains to school safety, there are some things to watch out for:

No Identifying Information in the Photo

I see people do this all the time — and it wasn’t a big deal until social media posting became the norm. Make very certain that there is nothing identifying about your child or his whereabouts in that photo. Pictures posted on the internet are not safe and aren’t always private. (Take the recent Instagram/Pinterest security snafu as evidence.) Just be super-careful with what you post. Here’s what NOT to include in your picture:

  • School name and/or teacher’s name
  • School logo on a uniform or bag
  • School bus or bus number
  • Your house number (This is a tricky one — make sure it’s not in the background of the picture.)

Keep your Social Media Accounts as Secure as Possible

Think about it: do you really know every person you’re friends with on Facebook? Or each person who can see your Instagram account? I’m not trying to scare you, I’m just trying to make you think about how you don’t really know what that old acquaintance from high school is up to.

So please be careful. This might mean making a family-only Facebook list to share your child’s picture. Or you might make your Instagram account private.

Turn off Location Services for Photos/Camera

Lastly, you definitely want to consider turning off Location Services for photos taken on your smart phone. If your photo app is enabled to include the location the photo was taken, that data is encrypted in the photo itself. When that photo makes the rounds on the internet, it would not be impossible for someone to figure out your address or your child’s school address. Please play it safe with this one and turn that setting off!

2. Regarding  Monogrammed  Backpacks

Here’s another school safety no-no I see all the time, and it’s a tough one.

Imagine there’s a child predator waiting near the bus stop to single a child out. How does he pick out his prey? He looks for easy ways to get that child to come with him, something that would help him lure that precious child away. And a name written on a backpack or lunchbox is the perfect trick — all he has to do is call that child by name to make her wonder if he knows her.

If he already knows the child’s name, he’s that much closer to fooling her and leading her away.

Now hear me loud and clear: heaven forbid this would ever happen, but the truth is it has happened before and could happen again.

One way to help alleviate this problem is to have a “family password” and to teach your child about stranger danger.

But (especially with younger kids) the best way to keep this from happening is to avoid the problem in the first place. Don’t embroider or write your child’s name on the outside of backpacks or lunchboxes. Instead, put his or her name on the inside… because we all know things get left behind or mistaken for someone else’s bag! Gotta label. Just do it wisely.

(PSST- Monograms with initials are just fine, as long as it’s not your child’s nickname. For example, poor DJ Tanner’s name would not work. But Steve Urkel — monogram SQU — would be just fine, along with his other TGIF friends.)

3. Talk about Bus Safety

Riding the bus is often convenient for parents and a fun experience for kids. What should kids know about school safety on the bus? Here are some basics:

  • Never walk behind the bus
  • Wait to board a safe distance back on the sidewalk
  • On the bus, stay seated until it’s your turn to get off the bus
  • When getting off the bus, wait until it comes to a complete stop and use the hand rails
  • Make sure all drawstrings and straps are secured and won’t get caught in the door
  • If you drop something, safely get the driver’s attention before grabbing it
  • When you leave the bus, walk to a safe distance and make sure you have the driver’s permission before crossing the street

4. Bicycle Safety Tips for Kids

Kids riding a bicycle to and from school should know the special school safety rules about bicycles.

Wear a Bicycle Helmet

The biggest part of bicycle safety is simply to wear a helmet! Make sure your child has one that fits before school starts, and consider letting him or her choose a stylish one to be sure it gets worn!

Teach Kids Bike Signals

Just like drivers of cars, bike riders should signal when they are turning or stopping. This article on bicycle safety goes into more detail on what that looks like. Be sure your kids know how.

Lock Your Bike at School

If your child’s school is in an area where bicycle theft is a concern, make sure your child knows how to lock and unlock his bike. Practice makes perfect! Show him where the bicycle lock goes around the bike and the bike rack (if applicable), and have him practice several times to be sure he can manage it on his own. It’d be awful to be stranded at school with a stuck bike lock!

5. What to Teach  Your Latchkey Kids

Do people still use the term latchkey kids? That’s what we called it when I was a kid — when I would let myself inside my house with my own key after school. At just 11 years old, I felt so grownup with the responsibility of keeping track of my key and being home alone for an hour or so until my Mom arrived.

So what’s a latchkey kid need to know about school safety?

Well, first of all he needs to know the plan. Make sure he knows what he is supposed to do from the time school lets out until you get home. Have him repeat the plan back to you to be sure he gets it.

Next, a latchkey kid needs his own key and should practice how to use it. Get him a fun keychain and decide on a safe place to keep it inside his backpack. Remind him that he should NEVER take his key out at school. Keeping it in its own compartment is a great idea so that his key never accidentally gets stuck on something else and falls out. Many backpacks have this feature, and if your child will be a latchkey kid, you should look for one like this.

Again, practice locking and unlocking the door with your child. It’s basically the most important step, so make sure he knows how to do it. Also share any alarm or building codes with your child and practice how to use them, too!

Tell your child expectations for what he should do when he gets home. Should he make a healthy snack? What food is allowed? Should he start homework? Are TV and video games allowed? All these parameters should be very clear beforehand.

Also have a backup plan arranged in advance in case he loses his key or has trouble getting inside the house. I remember vividly the day I forgot my key at home — and it was freezing cold outside. Fortunately, our trusted neighbors were home and didn’t mind me staying with them until my parents arrived back at our house. Make sure you arrange in advance with a neighbor like my parents did or hide a key in a safe location if no neighbor is available.

Oh, and did I mention that you should practice unlocking the door with your child? Because that’s really important.

PSST – Parents, if you’re not sure if your child is ready to stay safe at home alone, be sure to take a look at our Safe Kids 101 e-Course. You’ll get a checklist for readiness, and they can learn everything they need to know to stay safe!

6. What to Tell Your Kids about Child Abuse

Deep breath. This is a difficult topic. But it’s a school safety biggie — it’s SO important to make sure your kids know about child abuse, especially since they will be around many new adults in positions of authority.

Kids need to know that inappropriate touching — anything a bathing suit covers — is NOT okay in any situation. If anything happens that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should tell a trusted adult (preferably a parent or guardian) right away. Assure them that they won’t get in trouble — no matter what their abuser might say — and that you love them and want to help them.

You may also want to teach your kids not to be alone with an adult in a compromising situation. For example, if a coach asks your child to come away from the team and help in a closed supply closet, that might be a red flag. Empower your child with a voice to insist that the door stays open or that another teammate or adult come with them. Studies show that kids who are more aware of the red flags and potential dangers are less likely to be a target for such occurrences.

A small word of caution: the emphasis in these conversations should never be to scare your child into being safe. Age-appropriate information and empowering your child should be the emphasis — no need to contribute to child anxiety. So just remember to speak gently with your child to inform, not scare, them.

7. Brush Up on Internet Safety

Last (but certainly not least) in school safety is the all-important digital safety. The internet is a great resource for learning, and your kids will probably be using computers more for research and writing. They’ll probably also use cell phones and email to stay connected.

And as a close, personal friend of mine once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” (Okay, it was Spider-Man‘s Uncle Ben, not actually a personal friend of mine. If only!)

What should you teach your kids about digital safety? Well, there’s a lot to know. Here are a few basics, and be sure to check out Safe Kids 101 for the rest:

  • Never give out your name, address, or any other personal, identifying information online.
  • See something that makes you uncomfortable, scared, or angry? Tell a trusted adult right away.
  • Cyberbullying is never okay. (Or bullying of any kind, for that matter!)
  • Keep your accounts secure and only share passwords with your parents or guardians.

Whew. It’s a lot to think about. But now you know the school safety basics. And that’s why we advise bringing these topics up with your kids more than once to make sure it’s all sinking in. And if you want a great springboard for conversation, please take a look at our Safe Kids 101 program e-Course (well worth the $20 investment, wouldn’t you say?!) or find a class in your area. We cover all these topics and more to make sure your kids are prepared to be safe at home and in the community.

And if you think you might want to help your child’s friends be safe, too, we offer a Safe Kids 101 Leader Kit with all you need to start teaching a group of kids how to be safe. The video does the training for you, and the Leader Manual has discussion and activity suggestions. It really is easy to teach kids to be safe with the Safe Kids 101 Leader Kit.

Have a happy, safe school year!

Pin the school safety checklist here:

School Safety Checklist for Back to School #kids #safe from Smart Kids 101

(Shared at Way Back Wednesday)

READ NEXT: Top 15 Back to School Lunch Ideas That Kids Love! 

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About Aubrey Hunt
Before hopping on the crazy ride we call motherhood, I studied engineering and taught math and science to middle and high school students. Now, perhaps like you, I fill my days singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider and praying my preschooler will eat a vegetable — any vegetable!

4 thoughts on “7 Back to School Safety Tips for Kids”

  1. Destiny says:

    Wow, so many great tips. My kids are heading to school next week so I’m very glad to have read this. Thanks! #typealinkparty

    1. Aubrey Hunt says:

      Yay! So glad you found it useful, Destiny. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you all have a really great (and safe) start to the school year!

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