Street proofing is a concept designed to assist children in identifying and reacting to suspicious or dangerous circumstances.
The key words here are identify and react.
Teaching your child to identify a problem is pointless if she/he does not know how to react to it and similarly your child cannot be expected to react if he/she is unable to identify a potential problem situation.
How can my child identify a potential problem or danger?
When walking with your child through your neighborhood point out people, places and activities that are usually present at any given time. Assist your child in recognizing what is normal for your area so that changes will be noticed by him/her.
When walking with your child, make a game of observing activities and persons on the street. See how many potential problems you and your child can spot e.g. isolated parking lots, poorly lit alleys, abandoned houses, cars stopped near parks.
Have a Plan
Ask your child to see how where the nearest telephone, corner store, fire hall, or police station is. Ask your child to tell you what he/she would do to obtain help if they or one of their friends was in trouble. “You can speak to a telephone operator from any pay phone free of charge. Advise the operator that it is an emergency and the operator will place your call for help.”
Should your child, despite his/her best efforts, find themselves in danger here is the action to take:
- If she/he is physically held by someone, tell your child to yell, loud and long and to keep it up until the person lets go or help arrives.
- Run – tell your child to put as much distance between himself and the problem as possible.
- Run directly to the nearest safe location such as a neighbor, corner store or police officer and tell an adult what happened immediately. Don’t wait to be asked.
Constantly watching over your children’s every move may not be possible, even at home. With that said, here are some useful tips to make sure that they stay out of harm’s way.
- Teach your child their telephone number, including area code.
- Have your child fingerprinted and keep the card in a safe, accessible place along pictures updated every six months and an accurate description, including scars.
- Show your child how to dial the operator and what to say (tell them to stay on the line, if possible). Practice this.
- Know where your child is at all times.
- Don’t let your child go to a public restroom alone.
- Don’t leave your child alone in the car.
- Don’t put your child’s name, first or last, on hats, caps, jackets, bikes, wagons, etc.
- Teach your child to avoid strangers. A stranger is somebody that they do not know very well.
- Don’t leave your children in the toy section of a store or wandering in a mall. If they get lost or bothered, tell them to go to the cashier for help.
- Know your child’s friends.
- Be involved in your child’s activities.
- Practice with your child ways he or she may walk to and from a friend’s home or school.
- Make it clear to your child to whose home he or she may go to play or visit.
- Teach your child which homes are “safe” to go into near your home when you are not around.
- Listen when your child tells you that he or she doesn’t want to be with someone. Find out the reason.
- Notice if someone pays undue attention to your child.
- Encourage parent – child communication.
- Never belittle any fear or concern your child has, real or imaginary.
- Tell your children that if anything happens, you will look for them no matter how long it takes to find them.
- Organize safe houses in your neighborhood with signs in the windows. Teach the children to go there if they are frightened.