Every parent wants their child to be safe … but how do you know exactly what to warn your kids about, without scaring them silly? From online safety to how to dial 999, here are the safety tips police officers want you to share with your kids.
This article contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small amount of money if a reader clicks through and makes a purchase. All our articles and reviews are written independently by the Netmums editorial team.
It’s never too early to start teaching your child how to stay safe.
Here, PC Catrin Brown, school community police officer in North Wales who works on the SchoolBeat programme, and PC Liz Stanton, Cheshire Police’s lead youth engagement officer in its Safer Schools and Young People Partnership, tell us the vital safety lessons to teach your child.
One of the first things you can teach your child is what to do in an emergency.
PC Stanton says, ‘Parents should teach their children that the police are there if something bad happens. It’s never too early to start talking to your child about police; that they're there in person and also at the end of a phone if they need us. ‘
PC Brown agrees and says, ‘Talk to your child about what an emergency is – when someone is very badly hurt or in danger. You could role play dialling 999 on a pretend phone, and teach your child to answer any questions they are asked as best they can.
'And make sure your child is able to repeat your home address.’
Communication is vital, says PC Stanton. So if you are saying no to your child because she wants a Facebook account before she’s 13 (which is the recommended age to join) or to go to a party you’re not comfortable with, it’s important to explain your reasons for turning her down.
‘If parents just say no to their child, “No, you can’t have that app” or “No, you can’t do that”, there are endless reasons your child will still do it anyway – from peer pressure to the pressure of growing up and wanting to fit in, or even simple curiosity.
‘If it all goes wrong, or your child is scared, she won’t then go to you as the parent for help because she has already been told ‘No’. She knows she will get into trouble so may stay quiet from fear of what you’ll say.’
Social media is a worry for many parents. And while it’s important to monitor your child’s activity on Instagram, Facebook and so on, it’s also vital to be aware of any new features the platforms introduce.
One of these is Snapchat's Snap Map. PC Catrin Brown says, 'This map lets users see where you are right down to your street. It might then be possible to track your child and follow them.
'I’d advise parents that if your child is on Snapchat, make sure they are on ‘ghost mode’ so other users can’t see their location.
‘A child who shares her location with online ‘friends’ she doesn’t know could be targeted by someone unsafe.’
It’s also important to disable the location on your child’s devices. Find out how here.
It can be tempting to upload photos of your kids onto Instagram or Facebook. But this is something police generally advise parents NOT to do.
PC Brown says, ‘Be careful of putting photos online. Once they are there, that’s it. PC Brown says, ‘Be careful about putting photos online. Once they are uploaded – that’s it. You have no control over what anyone else who has access to those photos might do with them.
‘Bear in mind that strangers will be able to work out what school your child goes to if there are photos of them in school uniform. I’d recommend not sharing any photos online at all – if you do, make sure it’s with family or good friends that you trust and check your settings on the site before sharing.
‘Schools should ask your permission before sharing photos of pupils on their Facebook or Twitter pages. You have the option of asking the school office not to post photos of your child.’
It’s important to teach your child that the police are there to help … and not there to tell them off if they are naughty.
PC Brown says, ‘I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve been out in uniform and heard parents say to their children, “I told you the police would come if you were naughty”.
'This could be just because they aren’t listening to their parents or taking their seatbelt off in the car.
‘It’s a bit frustrating because we want children to see us as people they can approach and people who can help them.’
She recommends speaking positively about police so your child knows they are there if she needs them.
It can be hard managing how much screen time your child has. And it’s just as important to be aware of what she is looking at online.
PC Stanton says, ‘How much time they should spend on devices is the responsibility of the adult, not the child. There are three things parents can do:
'Be mindful that if the tablet / computer is being used by adults as well, then there is a possibility that the child will receive inappropriate adverts or can click on to sites that you use.’
For more advice on how to set up parental controls, visit the NSPCC website.
The Fire 7 Kids Edition Tablet is not only packed full of fun and educational treats for your little one, parents can set time limits and educational goals remotely from their smartphone using the Amazon Parent Dashboard. See more details here at Amazon.
Every week there seems to be a new story about children taking legal highs. And this is something you should talk to your child about.
Legal highs are drugs that contain lots of chemical ingredients, some of which are illegal, and some which aren't. Because they can't be labelled as being for human consumption, they're often marketed as plant food or bath salts, for example.
PC Stanton says, ‘Kids still think legal highs are safe to use. That's why we have now started using the term lethal highs.
‘You can start talking to your child about this at the earliest possible opportunity. Everything, of course, must be age appropriate.
'For example, I get younger children to work in pairs and draw around one of them on a big piece of paper. They then draw or write what can go into their bodies. For example, Calpol can be given by a parent or doctor and the reason why it is given.’
Being a child and teenager is tough. And PC Stanton advises making sure your child knows she can talk to you about anything.
‘Remember they are the children and as part of growing up they will explore, push boundaries and make wrong choices.
'But they must have the confidence that no matter what happens or what they do, that they can come to you for guidance and support. We all need to keep our children safe, whether they're online or in the real world.’
Most social media platforms have a minimum age of 13. But that doesn’t stop children from signing up earlier.
Children do this by lying about their date of birth when opening the account, or sometimes the parents do that on their child’s behalf, says PC Brown.
She adds, ‘It’s no surprise that secondary pupils use social media but it’s frustrating to know that children in primary school are too.
‘While we would prefer that everyone followed the law, some parents are allowing their children to use social media at a young age. It’s worrying.
‘If you’re going to allow your child to have an account underage, check her settings are private; look through her friends list and check her location settings are off.
‘You should regularly monitor all your child's online activity. Ultimately the best way to keep your child safe is by not allowing her to access sites that are not intended for her age group.’
What advice have you given your child about staying safe? Why not share your tips in our Coffeehouse forum, below.