The first step for parents in safeguarding your child is to acknowledge your personal concerns and anxieties about safety issues. The next step is to identify potential risks and give clear instructions to your child about how to avoid danger and how to respond to threatening situations. The following guidelines will assist you in ensuring that your child is safe both at home and in your community.
Tips for parents of young children
- Teach your child about fire safety, evacuation routes, and pre-designated family meeting areas outside the home. Identify neighbors that your child can trust for help in the event of an emergency.
- Teach your child the difference between appropriate touching and touching that makes him/her feel scared and/or uncomfortable.
- If your child has been abused, make sure the child knows it is not his/her fault. Contact your pediatrician, family practitioner and the police.
- Ensure that children aged three and older know their first and last name, the first and last name of their parent or guardian, their telephone number and home address, and how to dial 911 or an appropriate emergency number.
- Identify a relative or neighbor the child can contact or go to if you or another family member cannot be located.
- Play “What if...?” games with your child and ask how he or she would respond to dangerous and threatening situations.
- Know your child’s friends and know where they play.
- Know your child’s whereabouts when he or she is not in school. Obtain the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of your child’s friends.
Tips for parents of teens
- Participate in gang awareness workshops so that you can learn how to recognize gang behavior in your children, how to cope, and how to fight back. Find out where and when a gang awareness workshop will be given in your area by contacting the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy at 312-745-5900, or the Preventive Services Section of the Chicago Police Department at 312-745-5838.
- Become aware of the identifiers gangs use and be aware if they begin to appear on the personal articles of your children. Visible gang identifiers, innocently worn or displayed by children, may attract violent acts of retaliation.
- Remove graffiti from your property as soon as possible, as it is often an indicator of gang activity in your neighborhood, and may attract retaliation. To have graffiti removed from your property call the City of Chicago’s non-emergency number 311.
- If there are any weapons in the home, be sure they are locked up so that your child does not have access to them.
- Monitor your child’s access to the Internet. Keep the computer in a central location and be sure to use parental controls.
- Be aware of these danger signs in your child: mood swings, secretiveness, withdrawal from friends and/or peers, behavior or attitude changes. If you note danger signs, consult with the school counselor or psychologist.
- Monitor your child’s school attendance. Skipping school, class cutting and truancy are often early warning signs of academic problems. These may also be warning signs of a child being involved in gang activity.
Responsibilities for students
- Never open the door for someone you do not know and keep doors locked at all times if you are home alone.
- Never give out personal information over the telephone or volunteer family members’ schedules or whereabouts to unknown callers.
- Use a buddy system and stick together with friends while away from home. Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.
- Be cautious with, but not fearful of, strangers. Never approach the car of someone asking for directions or agree to help an adult search for something. If you sense trouble from a stranger, run away to the nearest public place and ask for help.
- If you feel that you are being followed, cross the street, run to the nearest well-lit, populated area, or pretend to see a friend and wave or call out to that person.
- Never pick up anything that looks suspicious or dangerous.
- Never put something you find into your mouth.
- Tell your parent right away if any person — a family friend, neighbor, babysitter, or relative — tries to touch you in an inappropriate way.
For more information, contact School Safety and Security at (773) 553-3030.