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Categories > Children’s Health > Children’s safety

Your guide to keeping little ones safe
The dangers of strangers
Safety in the cyber world
Prepping for peer pressure

Backpack safety
Backpack safety

Backpacks make it easy to carry all of school’s essentials. But oversized or heavy backpacks can become a hazard. How do you know if your child’s bag is too heavy? He or she should be able to walk easily and stand upright without feeling or looking off balance. To prevent injury:

  • Get a belt. Go for a bag with wide padded straps that go over the shoulders. Even better, try one with a waist belt, which helps to distribute the bag’s weight evenly across your child’s body, or a bag with wheels (if the school permits them).
  • Limit the load. Experts recommend that children carry no more than 15 percent of their body weight (that’s 7.5 pounds for a 50-pound child).
  • Lift it right. Teach your child the proper way to pick up heavy items—bending at the knees before lifting the bag will prevent injury.

We can control what our kids are exposed to—until they put on their backpacks and head off to school. Here, some important topics you need to discuss with your child now:

The dangers of strangers

Explain to your child that even if a stranger who pulls up and asks for directions seems nice, this is still a stranger. Instill “street smarts” in your child so that he or she knows to:

Trust his or her instincts. If kids feel uncomfortable, they should get away from the situation. Tell them to run to a safe place.

Ask parents. If a stranger invites your child somewhere or wants to talk, make sure your child knows to ask you for permission first.

Stay with friends. Encourage your child to use the buddy system and to stay in a group.

Safety in the cyber world

Today, kids chat via cell phone, text, Facebook, MySpace and other electronic methods we adults know little about. Talk with your children and set guidelines:

  • Tell them that you need to know about cell phone and computer usage. Ask “Have you used the Internet or did you text today?”
  • Keep the computer in the family room or kitchen, so you can see what your kids are doing and how long they’re online.
  • Make sure they understand that everything sent over the Internet or a cell phone can be shared with the entire world, so they should think twice before sending anything.
  • Have your kids show you the privacy features for their phones and computer. The more private the settings, the less likely your child is to receive inappropriate content.
  • Require your child to “friend” you to show that you’re within reach of his or her profile.
  • Consider monitoring systems to track your child’s e-mail, chat, IM and image content. Check out the parental controls on your computer or subscribe to a program that allows you to limit searches, block Web sites and decide who your kids can—and can’t—communicate with.

Prepping for peer pressure

Teaching kids to overcome peer pressure can be difficult. But it’s important that they’re prepared for it. Consider these points:

  • Discuss smoking, drinking, drugs, sex and online behaviors. Make sure it’s clear that if your child isn’t sure about doing something—even if others are doing it—he or she shouldn’t do it.
  • Help your child practice saying “no.” Saying, “No thanks, I don’t want any” or “No way, it’s not worth getting grounded over” can go a long way.
  • Choose a code phrase for your child to use that means “come and get me now.” So when calling from a party, he or she could say, “Is Aunt Kristen there?” or “Tell Uncle Jim that I say hi.”
  • If peer pressure is becoming difficult to handle, talk to your child’s teachers. They may have some insight and know how to diffuse the situation.
  • Remember, peer pressure isn’t always a bad thing. Positive peer pressure can pressure others into acting better and doing what’s right!