While summer isn’t over quite yet, for many kids those lazy, hazy, crazy days are coming to an end as they start returning to school for another year of studies. Classroom supplies and new outfits have been bought, before- and after-school care arranged, bedtimes reinstituted. Everything’s ready, right?
Before sending the little ones off to learn their reading, writing, and arithmetic, however, it’s a good idea for parents to take a quick safety check. With that in mind, we’ve put together a helpful list of some of the most common safety concerns related to kids going back to school.
Talk About Safety as a Family
Talking to your kids about safety is important. In addition to providing information that helps them stay safe from specific dangers, these discussions let your children know that their safety is important to you, which in turn will help them become more aware of potentially dangerous situations and conditions – giving them a better chance of avoiding such dangers altogether!
Some safety issues to talk about as a family include:
- What to do in case of fire (perhaps even practice your family fire escape plan)
- Body safety and how to interact with strangers
- What to do if your child encounters violence at school (bullying, outbursts from authority figures, etc.)
- Protecting privacy on computers and mobile devices
These are just a few of the topics that might come up during family safety talks. The important thing is to have regular safety discussions as a family, such as during dinner, at bed time, or another time when you are interacting with your child. Making it a part of your regular routine will help instill a safety focus in your child that will help them through the rest of their life.
The rest of this post goes into some other school-specific safety issues that you may want to discuss with your child.
School Transportation Safety
Kids get to school in a lot of different ways:
- Riding a school bus
- Getting a ride from parents or using a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft
- Walking or riding a bike, skateboard, scooter, hoverboard, etc.
Each of these methods of school transportation has its own benefits and risks. It is important to make sure both you and your child are familiar with potential safety hazards for the primary type of transportation they use as well as secondary methods that may be used on occasion.
Kids are bombarded with school bus safety rules throughout the year, from the bus driver, teachers, principals, and others. However, sometimes parents do not set the best safety examples when it comes to riding the school bus.
Some of the things parents do to undermine school bus safety include:
- Not waiting for the bus driver to signal that it is okay to cross the road
- Standing too close to the curb or roadside at the bus stop
- Arguing with bus drivers instead of treating them respectfully as an authority figure
- Tailgating buses and ignoring flashing lights/stop signs when buses stop
Each of these things can send signals to your children that it is okay to ignore the more common school bus safety rules that they are told throughout the year. For example, children who see their parents yelling at the bus driver might think it is okay for them to do the same, making it harder for the driver to do their main job – get your kids to school safely.
Another transportation safety issue is with respect to recalls. It might be worth a call to your school district’s superintendent – or even directly to the school bus depot – to make sure that their bus fleet doesn’t have one of the several school bus model recalls that have taken place over the last few years. It is also important to make sure your own personal vehicle is up to date on its inspection and doesn’t have any outstanding recalls as well. You can search for your make and model using our handy search below, or you can check for recalls tied to your vehicle’s VIN at SaferCar.gov.
Safe and Healthy Food Habits at School
Kids tend not to spend too much time thinking about the foods they eat. If it tastes good – or good enough – it goes in their mouths. As parents and caregivers, it is our responsibility to watch out for them and help them learn about safe and healthy eating habits.
This is especially important when it comes to school lunches. Make sure, for example, that your child know it’s not okay to use their lunch money to buy cookies and chocolate milk instead of a well-balanced meal. Explaining to them the benefits of a healthy meal can go a long way. Giving them examples of healthy foods at breakfast and dinner can go an even longer way to helping kids make smart, healthy choices when you’re not around.
If your pack your child a lunch to bring to school, you have a little more control. But there is also potential to make a number of mistakes. Here are a few things to keep in mind when packing that brown bag or licensed-character lunchbox.
Temperature: Opt for foods that don’t require refrigeration or heating. Perishable food kept in the temperature “Danger Zone” (40ºF – 140ºF) can cause sickness.
- Use a thermos or well-insulated container to help the food maintain an appropriate temperature.
- If you pack lunch the night before, keep it in the fridge overnight.
- Frozen juice boxes can do double duty as freezer packs!
Cleanup: Napkins are a good idea, but you might also want to include a disposable sanitary wipe to help with any mess afterward. Any disposable items, such as paper bags or food packaging, should be discarded immediately, so as not to contaminate other food or surfaces.
Check the Packaging: Make sure the items that go into the lunch don’t come from expired or recalled food items. It’s better to spend a few extra dollars on buying new food for your kid’s lunch than to risk them coming down with a potentially deadly case of listeria or some other food-borne illness.
Other School Safety Concerns
Of course, there are other safety concerns related to heading back to school.
- Do you kids play sports or get involved in other extracurricular activities that could cause injury? Make sure they have the proper protective gear that has been inspected and approved by a reliable third-party testing agency.
- Do your kids bring their phones with them everywhere they go? Phones are good to have in an emergency – but using them all the time can also lead to poor posture and other bad habits that could cause neck pain or other detrimental effects.
- Are their backpacks overloaded? Make sure the straps fit properly, and explain why it’s better to leave some of their books in their lockers rather than trying to carry everything around with them all day.