With news continuing to circulate that strangers are approaching children here in Casper, we decided to take it upon ourselves to come up with some tips on how to make sure your child stays safe when they are out of your sight. Obviously, the biggest component of this is communication. This seems like a no-brainer for most of us, but a lot of time and trouble can be saved by having conversations with your child. That being said, here is a list of 5 Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe.

#1- The Oldies are Still the Goodies

Most any person that has ever lived has heard the familiar phrase “don’t talk to strangers.” This has been the mantra of parents since before children even existed. It’s almost to the point of being cliché at this point, but things become cliché because they’re actually true. “Don’t talk to strangers” is perhaps one of the oldest pieces of advice in the world, but it’s still important. Kids are generally curious, trusting, naïve people and they are extremely susceptible to manipulative adults. By reminding your children of this age-old adage, it reinforces what they should already know- stranger danger is bad.

#2- Reinforce the Buddy System

Again, this seems like a no brainer, but more and more kids are becoming more and more independent. With technology playing such a heavy role in all of our lives’, a lot of kids seem to be more interested in texting, tweeting, and Facebooking their friends instead of actually being around them. This is safe, albeit unhealthy, when in the confines of home, but when they’re in public, this could actually be very unsafe. If your child walks home from school, find a neighbor kid (or two or three) to walk home with them. Predators are much less likely (though it does still happen) to approach a group of kids than an individual. Likewise, if your child is picked up, make sure that there is someone that will wait with him or her in case their ride is late.

#3- Bring Back Neighborhood Watch

When I was a kid, this was a staple of my neighborhood. I’m pretty sure my mom was even the head of our Neighborhood Watch. People would gather at my house every week or two to eat snackums, gossip about the people who weren’t there and, of course, talk about any goings-on in the community that may pose a threat. These days, this doesn’t really happen that often anymore. Today, more than any other time, we have a constant go-go-go mentality. We wake up, go to work, get home, go to activities, get home and go to sleep. We rarely have a moment to think, let alone meet for an hour or two every week. The fact, though, is that this is one of those things that we should make time for. Obviously, our children’s safety is the most important thing to us, so we should be able to put aside an hour or two a month to make sure they’re as safe as we can keep them.

#4- Be Nosy

I grew up during the very beginning of the “Tech Age.” This was when chatrooms and IM’ing really started to hit their peak. I would get home from school, turn on Power Rangers or Batman and sit in front of my computer for hours on end. I would chat with my friends, flirt with cute girls, and enter chatrooms that I had no business being in. My parents shortly thereafter must have seen a Dateline NBC special or something, because when I tried to get online one day, I found that most of the settings had been changed and I couldn’t do ANYTHING. This was frustrating at the time, but now, with hindsight being what it is, and the fact that I never ended up in somebody’s basement, I’m quite thankful that my mom  blocked chatrooms and took the phone off the hook every night before she went to bed (these were the days of dial-up internet. My mom is so sneaky.).  This is even more important now. Kids are given computers of their own now, and while most bad stuff is blocked, it is still very easy for children to be victims of online predators. With the advent of text messaging, Facebook and more, kids are surrounded by predators, and they don’t even know it. It’s important for parents to be nosy. Look over their shoulders when your children are online. Ask them who they’re texting. Look at phone records. Go through phones when they’re sleeping. They may hate you for a while, but when they grow up, they’ll realize you’re just trying to keep them safe.

It’s also important to have discussions with your children about why you’re doing what you’re doing. One thing my parents never did was tell me why I was blocked from certain things. Tell your kids why you’re being nosy, why they can’t send and receive pictures, why certain websites are blocked. They’ll still be mad, but at least they’ll know why you’re being so mean.

#5- Be Involved

Going back to the idea that we as a society have become increasingly busy, sometimes it’s hard to have time to actually sit down with your child and start, much less finish a conversation with him or her. Unfortunately, more and more kids are listening to more and more outside sources that aren’t their parents. This is something that we need to fix. Family dinners, family game nights, family time in general are of the utmost importance when it comes to not only keeping our children safe, but also helping them to grow up into the people that we want them to be.