If you have young children, it’s crucial that they are involved with the safety plan, but parents sometimes struggle with how to broach the subject. You want them to be informed, but you don’t want them to be scared.
The best way to teach young kids about emergency planning is to just talk about the facts, and answer any questions that may arise. Don’t overwhelm your children with unnecessary information. Give them the tools they need to contribute to a secure home.
Here’ a list of ten important things to teach your kids about home security:
1. Don’t open the door when home alone
This is an extension of stranger danger. If someone knocks on the door, a child should never answer, because that child can be overpowered easily, or worse.
Some suggest that children answer through a closed door that their mom or dad is taking a nap, but most experts agree that children should not engage strangers at all. If a stranger is at the door, instruct the child to ignore them and call you on the phone so that you can wait with them until the stranger goes away.
If you have children who stay home alone after school, it’s a good idea to invest in an outdoor security camera. That way, you can see observe the stranger remotely from your computer or smartphone.
2. Screen phone calls
It’s not recommended that children, especially younger children, answer the phone when they are home alone. They have a tendency to divulge too much information, and can be easily manipulated. Teach your children not to answer calls from unknown callers, and to use the answering machine to screen calls.
3. Be smart on social media
Tweens and teens are extremely vulnerable online. This is amplified when they share personal information, such as when they’re home alone on social media status. Caution your kids not to expose any personal information online, even with trusted friends or behind privacy settings. Criminals are getting more sophisticated online, and can circumvent and breach security settings.
4. Don’t broadcast family travel plans
In addition to not putting general information online, such as a home address and phone number, it’s important that kids avoid sharing any upcoming vacation plans. This is especially true if the whole family is leaving. That makes the home an easy target for unscrupulous criminals. Keep in mind that not every burglary is from a stranger.
Also, teach your tween or teen not to post images of your vacation on social media until after you return home.
5. Do emergency drills regularly
It’s not enough to tell children how to respond in the event of an emergency. Many people, but especially young children, learn better through practice. That’s why schools often act out emergency drills.
Set up your safety plan. You should know your evacuation route from each room. Every room, especially a bedroom, should have at least two exit points, in case one is compromised. If a child can’t get out from the doorway, they should escape through a secondary exit, such as a window.
Draw a map of your home, and a map to your safe meeting place. Make sure everyone in your family knows how to get to this meeting area, even little kids on their own.
Unfortunately, fire is not the only thing you need to worry about. Make sure that children know how to escape the home quickly in the event of a home invasion. In this case, designate a trusted neighbor’s home as the meeting place. This way, the neighbor can also call 9-1-1 in case the rest of the family is compromised.
6. Teach kids how to arm and disarm your home security system
A home security system deters burglary by 300%. If you’re concerned about home security, it’s a good idea to invest in one. When you have small kids, it’s important to teach them the PIN code for the alarm and how to properly arm and disarm the system.
This is especially true for children who will be home alone after school. If your children are not properly trained on the ins and outs of operating your home security system, they may disarm it completely. That means no protection for your child or your home during those vulnerable hours before you return from work.
Make sure your kids understand how to work with the basics of the system, and how to use two-way voice, if you have that feature.
7. Secure outdoor toys
There’s two reasons why children should secure outdoor toys. The first reason is to keep those items from being stolen. You may not think that anyone wants your child’s old bike, but toys are stolen all the time — if not by adults, definitely by other kids. Teach your children to lock up their bikes, and store miscellaneous outdoor toys in a locked toy bin after use.
8. Keep the doors and windows locked
Although you may allow your doors and windows to be unlocked when you’re around, instruct your children to keep them locked when you’re not. This should also be the procedure at nighttime — all windows, even bedroom windows on the second floor, should be locked, and all doors should be locked.
If your children let themselves in through a garage door after school, teach them the importance of closing the garage door and locking it, if applicable. It’s also a great idea that they immediately lock the door connect your home to your garage.
9. Teach them the basics
This may be a no-brainer, but it’s necessary to drill your children on the idea of calling 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency or break-in. If you can ingrain this idea in their brains, they’ll automatically retrieve it when necessary. Make sure young children know your home address, mom and dad’s first names, and at least one contact number (that’s not the home address).
Go over these basics until the child fully understands what’s expected of them in a time of crisis.
10. Teach them how to fight back
It’s unsavory, but it’s important that children learn how to fight off an attacker that would do them harm. Many children don’t understand that they can fight an adult, but you must teach them that every person has a sensitive spot. Teach your children to go for the eyes or the private areas. Give them permission to kick, bite, and scream. Teach them to never ever go to a second location with any stranger.