While most of us associate the holidays with joy and celebration, some do not. They use it as an opportunity to take advantage of people. I am happy to have Jarrett Arthur talk a little bit about safety tips that all parents should know. Take it away Jarrett…
You might be surprised to discover that the holidays, these cheery days of family, gifts, and celebration, are notorious for being prime crime times. The spike in consumer purchases mean that people have more stuff of more value (because the items are new), and are dumping security-sensitive personal and financial data out into the world at astonishing rates. There are also some less obvious factors that contribute to the elevated crime rates during the season including: the current economic state and unemployment rates, increased traffic in public places, the popularity of traveling during the holidays, and even holidays parties which tend to bring people together in intimate, boundary-lowered settings, unique to their typical social interactions (think of any work holiday party you’ve ever attended).
The jump in crime during the season is nationwide and indiscriminate, and no matter what neighborhood you live in, what town you call home, what car you drive, or your nationality, it’s in your best interest, and in the best interest of your family, to take some quick and easy precautions to ensure that your holidays truly are a time of joy. Here are my top two safety conversation topics essential for parents:
Conversation and Game: Safe People
The holidays are a crowded time of year, and crowds are inherently dangerous. Whether at the mall, a packed restaurant, busy store, airport, or other location filled to the brim with hustle and bustle, the possibility that your child will get separated from you is very much a reality. It may be that they’ve wandered to look at something and suddenly found themselves in a sea of strangers, or perhaps an emergency has caused a sudden crowd surge resulting in your separation. It’s important that your child understands the best types of people they should target first for assistance. The ability to prioritize potential places and people for safety isn’t actually common sense, so this is a conversation that should be had with teens as well, especially if they will be heading to busy stores and malls solo or with friends. The following list makes for the best priority people in an emergency: police officers, security guards, people in professional uniforms (EMT, firefighters, doctors, UPS or FedEx workers), wait staff, hosts and hostesses, cashiers, and other parents or grandparents with children.
Safe Game: This game will likely be out of the question for older kids, but for younger children this can help them practice their environmental awareness, observational skills, and safety knowledge all at once. Choose a public place, the more crowded the better, and challenge them to identify as many priority people (people they’d approach first for help in an emergency) as possible. To make it extra fun time them to see how quickly they can find 5 priority people, keep a running tally in your phone, and challenge them at many different locations.
Conversation and Game: Escape Plan and Meeting Place
Similar to the concept of teaching your kids priority people to seek in an emergency or if they get separated from you, it’s also important that as a family you prepare for a crisis by developing escape routes. Sadly, public places are not as safe as they once were. When panic ensues, both the actual source of the danger and the danger created by a scattering crowd can be life-threatening. Take a few seconds upon entering a building, store, restaurant, mall, movie theatre, or airport to identify less obvious emergency exits, typically the ones at the back or on the sides of the store. Make a family escape route and designate a meeting place outside of the building where everyone will head to in case of separation.
Escape Game: Get your kids involved by letting them choose an outside meeting place before entering the store. Once inside, challenge them to identify the hidden emergency exits. It’s like a game of “I Spy” but with a safety theme.
Conversation and Action: Keep Your Vacations Private
We now live in a sharing age. Not only do your friends and family get to see the details of your life, but so can tech savvy criminals. With so many vacationing families around the holidays there are a lot of empty homes ripe for the picking. It’s easier than ever for burglars and thieves to case houses from the comfort of their couch. Posted a picture of your new big screen TV? That expensive gadget you got as a holiday gift? They now have a tally of the loot, and can, with relative ease, pinpoint your address through photo geotagging and basic sleuth work looking at your network of friends and family. Now you’re off on vacation and sharing all those pics from Hawaii, right? What a holiday gift for a criminal interested in burglarizing your home. Make it family policy that you don’t discuss details of your upcoming vacation online. It’s also safe practice to wait until you’re home from vacation to post pictures and video.
While the practice of posting photos, status updates, and other present, past, and future details of your life might have taken you some getting used to, your kids have grown up with it. Since they can’t remember a time when privacy wasn’t simply a setting on their Facebook page, it’s important to sit down with kids old enough to have a social media account and explain the root of the family vacation policy. The more children are educated about the importance of keeping certain things private (meaning offline completely), as well as the potential consequences that come with sharing information, even in the “safety” of inner circles, the safer they will be as young adults and beyond.
Self-defense expert Jarrett Arthur leads unique self-defense training and education programs designed specifically for women, kids and moms. She will be launching her first instructional DVD “M.A.M.A. The Foundation” in January 2014. You can find Jarrett on Twitter and Facebook.