Street Smarts for Kids
Do you have what it takes to be safe out in public? I often hear comments from people describing others in two distinctive categories of either being “book-smart” or “street-smart?” However, they are not mutually exclusive. You can have both or one without the other. People often emphasize the side, which they may favor, as being more important. Both skills are important, but a significant deficiency in street smarts can put you in danger. Much like our counterpart list of “Internet Safety Tips,” you have to be aware of possible threats in your surroundings. While you may not be able to avoid every negative experience or random act of violence, you can control certain aspects of your behavior, which would at least improve your odds of not being a victim. The list below gives you insight into some of these tips.
- Always check first with your parent, guardian, or other trusted adult before going anywhere, helping anyone, accepting anything, or meeting anyone in person.
- Take a friend with you when going places or playing outside. Make it a PlayDate, as it’s better to be with a friend or a group of friends than to travel alone.
- Tell people “NO” if they (including other children or adults) try to touch you or do things in ways that make you feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused.
- Tell your parents, guardians, or other trusted adults if anything happens to you. Even if you’re not sure if it’s bad or not it never hurts to ask.
- Stay in areas with other people around. Don’t take short cuts through alleys, deserted parking lots, or vacant lots.
- Stay alert to your surroundings. Notice who’s walking near you, particularly at your side or behind you. Know where you could go to get help if needed. Look first for a uniformed police officer or security guard, a store clerk, or a mother with children. These individuals are likely to be safe and helpful.
- Avoid going into a public restroom alone. If you must, take the stall nearest the door and exit promptly when you’re finished.
- Never talk to strangers. This is a big one. Even though not everyone is bad, there are people out there who may want to hurt you. Adults don’t need to ask for help or directions from children. If a car pulls up beside you and someone asks, “where are you from?” Don’t answer their question. Simply run away to the rear of their vehicle as they may be gangsters looking to do a drive-by shooting.
- Don’t take things from people. Keep a distance of at least ten feet between you and strangers so you are out of grabbing reach and can run away anytime. If a stranger walks up or pulls up in a car and you’re too far away to hear the person, don’t go closer, even if they motion you over. Just get away. Run the opposite way that the car is heading.
- If a stranger asks you to help find a pet, offers you candy or to get in his/her car, you should scream and run away. Even if the stranger says that your parents sent him or her, or that there’s an emergency and you must get in the car and go to the hospital, turn right around and tell your parent or guardian what happened. Your parents would have told you if someone else was coming to pick you up, and if an emergency really did occur, they would send someone you already know, not a stranger. Remember: Even if the stranger knows your name, don’t be fooled. There are a lot of ways to find out your name.
- Don’t walk or ride your bike too close to parked motor homes or cars.
- Possessions can be replaced, but you cannot be. If someone threatens you or tells you to give them something of yours, drop your stuff and run away.
- Listen to your instincts. If you feel something is wrong, don’t wait to find out if your fears are correct. Leave fast and go to a safe area.
- Make a lot of noise, yell, scream, kick, and do whatever it takes to get away from someone touching you against your will. Unfortunately, people sometimes go into shock and become paralyzed, which makes for an easier target.
- If you get lost, stay where you are, preferably in a public place, and do not wander around. People are looking for you and will find you.