It’s that time of year! Colleges and universities are back in the swing and parents are neck-deep with worry wondering, “Will my child be safe on campus?”
10 Campus Safety Tips
This question is especially true for parents of incoming freshmen who will be away from home for the first time. For these young adults, this is their first opportunity to experience a significant degree of independence. With that independence comes a high level of responsibility, including making daily safety choices. So, how can you as a parent help prepare your freshman for life on campus? 10 Campus Safety Tips have described under.
Mom and Dad, it’s important to be totally straight-up and honest with your teen about what campus life will be like. Take the time to sit down and discuss this… it doesn’t have to be a scary conversation, but it does need to be real. In fact, I think it’s a good idea to begin prepping your teen for safety while they are in high school (many of the same rules apply).
Now, your teen may seem frustrated or bored by the conversation… too bad! Believe it or not, they will be listening and, with a little savvy and luck, may even engage in the conversation with you.
To get the conversation started, here are 10 campus safety tips for incoming freshmen that you should review with your kids as they head off to college.
10 Campus Safety Tips
1. Trust your gut, but err on the side of caution. Your young adult will be making all sorts of new friends and acquaintances as she begins life on campus. Before sharing too many personal details or trusting someone implicitly, be sure she understands the importance of really knowing that person. If she has even an inkling that something isn’t straight-up — you know, that funny, uncomfortable feeling you get in the pit of your stomach — the time isn’t right to throw her trust in the ring. Encourage her to be careful and have faith in her inner-self.
Before sharing too many personal details or trusting someone implicitly, be sure you really get to know that person.
2. Prep and use your cell phone. Before hitting campus, program emergency numbers into your teen’s phone so help is readily available at the press of a button or a quick Siri request. Mom and Dad, you should already be programmed in — other numbers to include would be:
- Campus police
- Residential housing office
- Campus health clinic
- ICE (“In Case of Emergency”) Contact — this may be Mom, Dad or someone else you know that lives close to campus. Program “ICE” at the beginning of the contact information; emergency personnel are trained to search ICE on cell phones. There is also “an app for that“.
- Taxi service: this is helpful for times when your teen needs to get back to his dorm or house late at night and is by himself. Have him be sure to ask the taxi driver to wait until he physically enters his housing unit before leaving.
Your new college student should keep the cell phone charged and with him at all times! Remind him to be careful of using geotracking software or “check-in” features found on Four Square or Facebook to identify a current location. That can open up all kinds ‘o trouble.
3. The Buddy System works! Whether it’s a roommate, a fraternity brother or sorority sister, or a friend down the hall, stress the importance of always letting someone know your college student’s plans and location. Have your teen share her class schedule with a friend or two and do casual check-ins when she returns. If heading to the gym, cafeteria or library, again just touch base and let a friend know her plans. Encourage her to ALWAYS bring a friend along to any party, agreeing to have one another’s backs. It’s good to have an “out” contingency plan if one or both of them are uncomfortable — they should identify a code word or signal to help gracefully (and safely) exit the situation. It’s amazing how often that comes in handy!
If you are headed to the gym, cafeteria or library, just touch base and let a friend know your plans.
4. Be aware of your surroundings. Whether it’s walking to class, studying at a quiet table at the back of the library, taking a shower in the dorm or parking the car, it is vitally important to be vigilant of surroundings. Encourage your teen to ask…
- Are there people around me?
- Is this a well-lit area?
- Have I told someone where I was going to be and at what time to expect my return?
- Do I really know the person from whom I’m accepting this ride to class?
- Are my doors locked?
If your teen ever thinks he is being followed while walking, have him try crossing the street to see if the person continues the pursuit. If that person does and your child is at all uncomfortable, tell him to immediately pull out his cell phone and dial 911 or the pre-programmed number for campus police. If followed while driving, have him try taking a few turns — if the vehicle of concern continues to follow, immediately dial 911.
It’s vitally important to be vigilant of your surroundings.
5. Lock your doors. This seemingly simple concept is often overlooked. This includes dorm rooms, apartments, classrooms and labs (if your college student is alone) and car doors. She should make a habit of having her keys ready when arriving at her door to avoid fumbling around for them. Before getting in a car, she should be sure to check the back seats. Also, DO NOT attach any personal identification on any of her keys.
6. Drink responsibly. Let’s face it… alcohol is accessible on most college campuses. Parents, it is imperative that you talk with your kids about responsible drinking, a conversation that should include abstinence. The legal drinking age in the United States is 21 and there are very real and severe legal, and life, consequences for underage drinking. It may feel like a tough conversation to have, but it’s one where you need to share your personal parenting perspective with your child, as well as possible legal ramifications. It also means if your child chooses to drink, he needs to know to NEVER get behind the wheel of a car… or ride in a vehicle driven by someone else who has been drinking… or let a friend drive drunk. Also, be sure to share with him the dangers of leaving drinks (both non- and alcoholic) unattended. If a drink is left alone, it should be dumped. Finally, reinforce the importance of the Buddy System.
7. If you are ever a victim of sexual assault, don’t keep it a secret! Sadly, rape and sexual assault happen far too often on college campuses. Various studies have concluded that 20% to 25% of college students have been victims of attempted or completed rape… nearly half of those victims didn’t tell anyone about their assault. Why, you may ask? There are a variety of reasons including shame, feeling responsible, guilt, or even fear of getting in trouble for drinking or taking drugs. According to Campus Safety Magazine, “College freshmen and sophomore women appear to be at greater risk of being victims of sexual assault than are upperclassmen.” In fact, 84% of the college women who reported incidents said the assaults occurred within their first four semesters on campus. Remind your teen that it could never, ever be her fault if something like that happened to her. Reinforce the importance of the Buddy System and making good, safe decisions about the people with whom she is socializing. Please, have the conversation… up to 1 in 4 college students is a victim. Help keep your daughter safe by talking about it.
College freshmen and sophomore women appear to be at greater risk of being victims of sexual assault than are upperclassmen.
8. Guard your social media footprint. In today’s digital world, nearly every action you take has the potential to be publicly shared. Things your teen may think are okay or cool today, could very well come back to haunt him. Reinforce the importance of NOT sharing photos that include images with the potential to taint his reputation with the college or university, scholarship programs or potential future employers. A good litmus test is: if he wouldn’t show it to his grandparents, he shouldn’t post it!
9. Have your fellow students’ backs. Students really need to look out for one another. Have your teen keep a watchful eye out for her friends and fellow students as she is out-and-about on campus to offer or seek help as needed. If she sees someone being victimized, she should immediately call 911 or contact the campus police. Students on campus are in it together and looking out for one another does nothing but improve the college experience for all.
10. “Remember who you are.” This is one of my favorite sayings from my dear friend Lisa Kochert who is a campus technical recruiter with Avanade. She shared this mantra with her two daughters any time they left their house, reminding them to “honor the family name” by making good decisions. These four simple words pack quite a punch and offer a positive reminder to kids that you trust them to make good decisions while they are away from you. Lisa started this tradition while her girls were in high school. I highly recommend this simple, empowering validation– it works!
These four simple words pack quite a punch and offer a positive reminder to kids that you trust them to make good decisions while they are away from you.
Want more information?
Check out these websites that offer additional super safety information for all students on campus:
Raising awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse has become Ginger’s life mission. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and child forensic interviewer, Ginger regularly blogs about child protection issues and has released a report for parents and other caring adults, “10 Scary Apps.” Ginger can be contacted via her website, “Ginger Kadlec: BeAKidsHero™” at BeAKidsHero.com or find her on Facebook at facebook.com/gingergkadlec.
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