(Update August 2023. This was written in 2015. I am now sending my fourth and youngest kid to college. We have learned many things over the last ten years of kids going to college. These tips have proven invaluable for my kids in college. Your kids need to know these things and practice good situational awareness.)
This August I will be sending my second child to college. I have sat through two college orientations and my favorite session is the personal safety session for parents. I have learned a lot about how to help my college-age kids safe while at college. I have a lot of confidence in my girls being able to protect themselves and being aware of their surroundings while at college.
However, let’s be real here. There are some potential situations that girls or any kids can face at college (or even high school). Some situations may be unavoidable, bad decisions will be made, and small problems can become big problems. Drinking, drugs, sexual assaults, bad roommates, thefts, and fights can be situations they could face in the upcoming year or during their time in college.
In light of this, here are twelve safety tips for college students and young adults. These are tips that have been given by safety officers, campus police officers, and some common sense tips from myself. These are tips that can be used to avoid or prevent a bad situation from happening to your child.
1. Have your college student put the phone number of the campus police department on their phones. They will then have it in case of emergencies. Yes, they can still call 911, but they might get a faster response by calling the campus police directly. Most campus police departments are staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At the college my daughters go to, they will also provide a safe escort home at any time during the day.
2. Write down all serial numbers to any electronics they will be taking with them. Keep a copy in their dorm and at home. In case of theft or damage, you will be able to provide that information to the police and the insurance company.
3. If your kids are taking a bicycle or moped to college, write down the serial number to them. Also, you should take a picture of the bicycle or moped and keep the information in the dorm room as well as at home. I was surprised to learn how many bicycles they said were stolen every year and never recovered. They also recommended using a U-shaped bike lock to keep the bicycles safe.
4. Talk to your kids about issues and situations they may face while at college. You should sit down and talk to your kids about situational awareness, dealing with other people in a non-confrontational way, not engaging in fights unless they need to defend themselves, drinking and drugs, protecting themselves from date rape/sexual assaults, and protecting their things. I know you might have had these conversations with them already, but a refresher would not hurt.
5. Enroll your kids, especially your daughters, in self-defense classes. Most colleges offer these classes, either as a class or through the gym/wellness center. Make sure your daughters especially take this as it could save their lives.
6. Teach your kids about staying safe, the college edition. Teach them to walk with another person when they go out at night. Teach them about going out in groups. Talk to them about getting a safe ride if they need a ride home instead of walking by themselves. Talk to them about letting a roommate or a friend know if they are going out on a date or out with other friends so someone knows where they will be at all times.
7. Teach your kids about situational awareness. If an area or place does not look safe, they should avoid it. If something seems off about a person or persons, teach them to trust their instincts and get away as soon as possible. Teach them that saying no is okay and they need to do it if they don’t want to be in a potentially bad situation.
8. Give your kids the tools to protect themselves. Provide them with pepper spray or mace. Teach them about using a small knife to defend themselves and get away. Teach them to use a tactical pen. Enroll them in self-defense class or show them where to hit an attacker to disable them enough to get away. If they are about to be attacked in any way, teach them to yell or scream for help.
9. Teach your kids to not engage someone on social media in a negative way. Social media can be a great thing, but bullying and harassment are very, very common on social media. Teach your kids to not engage someone who may be trying to engage them in negative ways. Teach them to also not start anything negative on social media. If someone is doing this to them and it does not cease, they should tell their resident assistant or the campus police. These situations can escalate out of control quickly. Harassment is a tough thing to prove, but the charges are very serious.
10. Find out the chain of command for their dorm or apartment and make sure your kids know it. Find out who your kid should go to if they are having problems with roommates or fellow college students. While I believe in kids settling problems directly with the person they are having trouble with, we all know that sometimes a peaceful solution may not be had. Then your kid needs to talk to someone to get a situation resolved.
11. Teach your kids to keep their rooms or apartments and vehicles locked at all times, but especially when they are gone from them. You would not believe how many kids do not lock up behind them. They believe they are invincible and no one would want their things. They would be so very wrong. They need to keep their rooms and vehicles locked up unless they are there. The campus police or regular police have less sympathy when they find out things have been stolen from unlocked places. The insurance company has even less sympathy.
12. Teach your kids to become friendly to their neighbors, roommates, and others. The friendlier your kids are to others, the less likely they will be a target for anything. People watch out for people they like and are nice to them. Proven fact. Kids should be cautious, but being friendly can pay off in big dividends too.
College is not a scary place, but scary things can happen if college kids are not careful. They are out on their own for the first time and feel invincible. Parents, it is your job to help them understand they aren’t and what they can do to protect themselves.
Thanks for reading,