How to earn an A+ in back-to-school safety

Before heading into the new school year, make sure that these safety tips are at the top of your to-do list. 

Back to SchoolBackpack, check. Notebooks and folders, check and check. Getting ready for back-to-school means crossing off many to-do list items. When preparing for the new school year, University of Alabama at Birmingham safety experts suggest adding the following items to increase the safety of children. 

When preparing for children to start the new year, part of the excitement can be picking out their first backpack. Marvin Hart, crime prevention manager in the UAB Department of Police and Public Safety, warns parents of the dangers of including a child’s name as part of the backpack design.  

“Caretakers need to be aware that putting a child’s full name on a backpack could open a door for danger,” Hart said. “A stranger could approach the child and call them by name, which could cause a child to let their guard down.”

In place of their name, Hart recommends putting initials as it allows identification of property while limiting the information shared with the public.   

The rise of social media has brought the tendency to overshare information, and some of the information shared through posts can risk the safety of your child this school year. Hart recommends not sharing the name of a child’s teacher and the school they attend in a back-to-school post.  

“In our culture, it has become common to share personal information on our social media accounts; but the less information about the whereabouts of children, the better,” Hart said. “Remember, once the information is out there, you do not have any control over where it goes or who sees it.”

The move from preschool to elementary school comes with several changes, including the option for students to ride the school bus. Hart recommends discussing pedestrian safety with students prior to the start of school.

“As part of your back-to-school preparation, practice the route your child will take to and from bus stations to identify hazards and address questions.”  

One UAB study shows that parking lots present a high risk of injury and death in children due to lack of attention

UAB experts recommend that caregivers teach their children basic safety practices at a young age. These practices include:

  • Checking for moving vehicles by looking both ways before crossing the street
  • Watching for vehicles that are backing up
  • Walking in parking lots and avoiding horseplay

Once children enter middle school, interscholastic activities such as sports and clubs become a part of their educational experience. Many of these extracurriculars will present families with a car sticker that states their student is a part of their organization. Hart warns that information on vehicles can be used and could pose a risk to a family’s security. 

“As with social media, the more information is out there, the more unwanted attention that could come your way,” Hart said. “You have to ask yourself ‘is it worth it, or is there a better way to show your pride of your kids and their school.’” 

A recent trend to honor graduating seniors has included yard signs announcing the achievement of a milestone. While having yard signs is OK, remember to limit the amount of information displayed in your front yard for anyone to see, including names and photos. 

“I recommend being cautious and using your best judgment,” Hart said. “Keep celebrating the educational milestones of your children; just consider who you are sharing it with.”