Kids are headed back to school all over the country, and while you may be focusing on new shoes and school supplies, it’s important not to overlook safety and security at home. Make home security a priority on your back to school checklist.
Home security and safety are especially important if children will be alone at home for any length of time. Walking home alone, entering an empty house, and staying safe at home can be a challenge. But with guidance, rules, and helpful products, parents can help children stay safe at home.
With these tips, you’ll learn how to teach kids how to be safe before, during, and after school, even when home alone. You’ll even find out how you can automate important home security and safety tasks like locking the front door and notifying you when kids get home.
- Use an alarm system with remote alerts: If you don’t have one already, consider getting an alarm system that will tell you when children come home from school and punch in their code. You’ll also get alerts any time there’s a problem so you can respond quickly. It’s a good idea to set up sensors on sensitive areas in the house such as gun or liquor cabinets. You can also monitor home activities and visitors using a video monitoring system. Some systems will automate locks and notifications, so all kids have to do is walk up to the front door, open it, and close it, and you’ll be notified and the lock will be engaged behind them.
- Teach kids to lock the door and not open it for anyone: Children should know how to properly lock all doors. Teach them that they should never open the front door while they’re home alone, even for deliveries or mail. Instead, they should speak with visitors through the front door without opening it and never let them know that they are home alone.
- Show kids how to use the alarm system: Make sure children know how to properly use the alarm system, both arming and disarming it. You should also show them how to hit the panic button and what to do if there’s an emergency. If possible, let them hear alarms including the burglar alarm, smoke, fire, and carbon monoxide so that they can recognize them if they go off and they’ll know what to do.
- Teach children not to go inside the house if there are signs of a break in: The last thing you want your kids to do is walk in on a burglar. Be sure they know that if the door is open or broken or they see a shattered window, they should not go in the house and instead get help from a neighbor, call you, or walk right back to school to find a teacher.
- Plan a safe route to school: Work with your child to plan a direct route to school. Avoid as many street crossings as possible as well as open fields, vacant lots, and desolate areas. Look for crossings with crossing guards whenever possible. Encourage kids to walk or bike with friends. Make sure children know they should not use cell phones, ear buds, or other distracting items on their walk to school so they can pay attention to traffic. If kids are biking to school, remind them to wear a helmet and other protective gear. Make sure they’re coming directly home after school unless you’ve agreed otherwise.
- Help children memorize important numbers: Teach kids their home address, their home number, your cell phone number, and the number of a neighbor who can help. You should also teach them how to use 911 in an emergency.
- Teach children about stranger danger: Make sure kids know not to talk to strangers on their way home from school, even if they seem friendly or helpful. They should never accept gifts or rides from strangers. It’s also important to teach them about strangers who they can go to for help in an emergency, such as police, security, or other parents with children.
- Know your child’s routine: Make sure that you know where and when your child will be before, during, and after school each day. Ask them to check in with you along the way so you’ll always know if something’s gone wrong and they aren’t where they should be. Allow them to change their routine as needed day to day, but just make sure that they tell you ahead of time.
- Make an emergency plan for fire: Work on an emergency plan together and determine how your child will exit in case there’s a fire. Show your child how to effectively use a fire extinguisher.
- Keep communication open: Ask your child to text or call when they get home each day. Encourage them to call you if there’s any problem at all so you can help.
- Maintain a family schedule: As school and extracurricular activities ramp back up, it can be easy to lose track of where family members are or should be at all times. Create a monthly calendar of where all family members should be so everyone is aware of who is home when. Consider staying connected with a family locator app that uses cell phone GPS or locator devices.
- Have a plan for lost keys: Even responsible children can lose keys. A lost key in your neighborhood is a security problem. Make it easy for kids to stay safe and secure by using a keyless entry system that can’t be lost. Or, invest in a lockset that can be easily rekeyed.
- Establish rules for safety at home: Determine whether children will be allowed to use the stove or oven when home alone, rules for visitors or leaving the house, even screen time. Set kids up for a safe afternoon at home by establishing your expectations.
- Show children that they can always get you involved: Make sure kids know they can always call you for help and that they always have a right to call you. If they feel uncomfortable, bullied, or abused, they can call you to ask for help without being punished. If they run into trouble at school, encourage them to talk to the principal and ask to call you.
- Review social media and Internet usage at home and at school: Create social media agreements and outline appropriate usage. Warn them about the dangers of making new friends online and help them avoid cyber bullying.