Do You Give Your Child Everything They Need for Back to School?

Yes, yes, we all know that the hustle and bustle of “Back to School” is upon us.  Television ads for the best deals on computers and folders are everywhere.  The promise of giving your child a “leg-up” for the new school year seems to be guaranteed if they are equipped with the best tools, clothes, and supplies.  But are we forgetting some of the most valuable tools?  Self-awareness, cyber-safety, and dating safety? My answer to this question is, YES!

We don’t want to think about the bad things that happen at school.  We want to focus on learning, education, sports, and fun.  But there is another side to going back to school.  That is keeping your child safe from the new and alarming dangers that stem from technology, the internet, and being around peers.

Before we send our children, tweens, and teens off to school, it wouldn’t hurt to have a preparedness talk with them.

What should you cover?  Cyber-safety, social media, and dating violence.  I know these are hard things for parents to hear or even consider.  No one wants to talk to their child about the potential horrors of our world.  Children are sweet and innocent and shouldn’t be exposed before they have to.

If you are saying, “My child is still too young for that”-consider this.  Teens have to take Drivers Education before they can get a license.  We try to prepare the teen for the responsibility of driving long before they are unsupervised behind the wheel.  Talking about these topics is no different. This is where a diligent parent comes into play.

First and foremost, educate yourself on these topics.  Learn about the safety features of Facebook and how to get around them, take a look at Twitter and see what’s there. What’s instagram?

Check into smartphones and the parental locks that can be used.  What’s sexting? Does your child know how to send a picture to someone on their cellphone?  Have they ever?  Don’t know? Better ask.

Does your child have a set of rules to follow regarding use of the internet and smartphones?  Do they follow them?  Don’t know? Better ask.

Does your child have a boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner?  Don’t know? Better ask.

Does your child know not to share their passwords, logins, or other private information?  Do they know what types of bullying can occur online via Facebook, Twitter, or other social networking sites?  How can they stop it or prevent it from happening to them?  Don’t know? Better ask.

Does your child know what dating violence is?  Do they have friends that have been victims of dating violence?  Examples of this are being pushed, beating, bullied, or verbally or emotionally abused by a dating partner, just to name a few.  Almost half of teenagers know someone who has been a victim of dating violence.  Does your teen or tween?  Don’t know, better ask.  Has your tween or teen ever been a victim of bullying?  What happened to them?  How did the handle it?  Don’t know? Better ask.

Does your child have the confidence to come to you if they are in trouble?  Do they have other trusted adults in their life that they can talk to?  Did you know that during adolescence, the advice and opinions of their peers mean more to them than their parents’ opinions?  How do you deal with that?

If you don’t know the answers to some of these questions, someone had better ask the tween or teen about them.  Awareness and education and well as open dialogue are the keys to preparing your child for Back to School.  Give them the tools, all of them, to be self-aware and keep themselves safe!