I'm old enough to be safe in public, aren't I?
Some of the warnings and advice given to small children still apply to older children. The smallest child is told not to accept gifts or lifts from strangers – good advice for older children and adults, too!
The “lolly” offered to the five-year-old may be a soft drink for a teenager or a cocktail for an adult - but the result can be the same.
The concept of a “stranger” is just as valid for older children, too - don’t forget that an attractive or “normal” appearance doesn’t mean “safe”.
You should consider some general safety rules when out in public:
- Make sure your parents or another adult knows where you are and who you’re with, and when you can be expected home
- If you have a mobile phone, keep it with you. If you don’t but you’re with a friend who does, give your friend’s number to your parents or the adult who’s responsible for you (it may be the coach, if you walk home from training, for instance)
- Stick with at least one friend, for instance when going to the movies, on public transport, riding the train home from the city or riding your bike in the park
- Identify some “safe spots” – places you know are safe such as friends’ and relatives’ homes, the library, police station and shops you know (and if possible where they know you).
- Pick out a few along each of the routes you walk or ride most often, so if you’re in trouble you can head for the nearest “safe spot”
- Avoid places that aren’t safe – isolated areas, dark and secluded places like lanes and alley ways, and public toilets if you’re alone
- If out with friends, make sure you have a plan in place in case, including nominating a place and a time to meet, if you become separated or have to part for a while.
- Don’t enter a situation you can’t escape from easily – don’t go to someone’s house or other private place with anyone you don’t know well and trust
- Trust your instincts – if you don’t feel comfortable about following a group or with an individual, make an excuse and call your parents
If you’ve ever seen a “scary” movie, you’ll know there are behaviours you immediately think are risky or even stupid, and bound to end badly for that character. Apply the same ideas and instincts when you’re in public spaces:
- Be aware of your surroundings and the behaviour of the people you’re with and others around you
- Don’t be too trusting of people you don’t know – even if your friends seem to know them
- Don’t go anywhere near or enter a car with someone you don’t know well, even if they say your parents sent them and even if they seem to know your name or a friend’s name. Don’t go and look at something, even through a window - if you’re that close, you’re close enough to be pulled or pushed into the vehicle
- Don’t help an adult or older stranger, no matter how “nice” they seem – if a stranger appears to need help, tell another adult or older child to help. If the person keeps asking you, head for a safe spot. If you are scared, call for help.
- Don’t take anything from someone you don’t know well and trust - no matter how much you want it.
- If someone you don’t know calls out and asks you to approach them, don’t go – head in the opposite direction. If you’re near school or another safe place, go inside and report the person.
- Don’t ever feel as if you’re too old to call out or scream for help if you are grabbed or otherwise assaulted in a public place. It’s one time to make as much noise as you can. If you can yell something like “I don’t know you” other people will notice and are likely to try and help you.
Remember – trust your instincts. And that it’s better to be a safe kid than a sorry one, injured, hurt or worse.