It’s back-to-school season and for students, that may mean a whole new routine. New schedules, new schools, and new classes are exciting and nerve-racking changes for students of all ages.
As your child grows older, the back-to-school season also means an increased sense of freedom and new responsibilities. Take a few moments to review these important back-to-school safety tips and share them with your children—especially if they’re transitioning schools or routines.
Making sure your children are well versed in safety procedures at the beginning of the year will ease the adjustment period and allow them to focus their energy on classes, friends, and enjoying their school year.
Getting to and from school
For students of all ages, getting to and from school safely is an important part of the day.
Brush up on proper procedures not only for your child, but to be aware of others and their safety as well.
For school bus riders
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “over the last decade, nearly two-thirds of school-age pedestrians who were fatally injured in school-transportation-related crashes were struck by […] vehicles when getting on or off a school bus.” Following school bus safety tips is of the utmost importance.
Students traveling to and from school by bus need to know their school bus number and the time it will pick them up and drop them off. They should arrive at their bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive—but not too much earlier than that.
Make sure your child knows to stand on the sidewalk in the designated spot, well away from the curb, and wait for the bus to come to a complete stop, display its stop sign, and open its doors before stepping forward to board the bus.
If your child needs to cross the street after getting off the bus, they must always pass in front of the stopped bus and be aware of other vehicles on the road, waiting for them to come to a complete stop as well.
At the end of the school day, your child needs to know where to find their bus and when it will depart from school. They should disembark at their designated stop unless you have communicated otherwise.
Talk to your child about after-school plans—whether they must go home immediately or if they can play with a friend or neighbor, and how they will communicate with you.
Although there is no legal age requirement for children to walk to school alone, parents should make this decision based on their child’s maturity and comfort level, as well as access to sidewalks and crossing guards and the number of other children walking to school.
If you live in a neighborhood with many walkers, children can meet and walk in groups. Young children should never walk to school alone—and the buddy system is wise for students of all ages.
Walkers should have weather-appropriate clothes ready, including coats, umbrellas, and rain boots. Keep these items in a designated spot in your home so your child isn’t searching for them on a rainy day. Consider having your child wear bright or reflective clothing to be easily visible to drivers.
Practice walking to school with your child, showing them the locations of crosswalks and crossing guards, and ensure that they know safe procedures for crossing streets and waiting for traffic.
The rules for riding a bike are similar to those for walkers. Wear weather-appropriate, reflective clothing, and watch for pedestrians when traveling by bike. Bicycles should be walked, not ridden, across crosswalks—and your child should follow all traffic patterns, including stopping for stop signs and traffic lights.
Your child should also know to always wear their helmet regardless of distance.
Make sure bikes are in good condition with air in the tires and working brakes, and check in on a regular basis. Show your child where to park and how to use a bike lock to properly secure their bicycle at home and at school.
Drop-off and pick-up zones
If you drive your child to school, ensure they are fully prepared before you enter the drop-off line. Backpacks and lunch boxes should be ready to go, and shoes tied, so your child can exit the vehicle quickly and easily without holding up the line.
Every school has drop-off procedures that you should review with your child. These may include where to cross the street, which door to enter and exit from the car, and how to interact with the safety patrol or crossing guards.
Drivers should always follow speed limits, watch for pedestrians, and avoid using cell phones in school zones.
While the rules of the road are the same for drivers of any age, it’s important to regularly communicate with your teen driver regarding vehicle safety.
New drivers should be especially cautious of distractions including cell phones, radio, and other passengers. They should be aware of school zones, follow speed limits, and know alternative routes to school in the event of road closures.
Set a good example for your young driver by being an attentive driver yourself.
For all students
However your child gets to and from school, they need to know what is expected of them when they arrive home. If they will be arriving home by themselves, make sure they practice using the house key, know how to turn off any home alarms, and always lock the doors behind them.
If they will be visiting with friends or otherwise not going directly home, establish a standard of communication so that you and your child feel connected and well informed.
Safety during school hours
Backaches and muscle strain can begin at a young age due to ill-fitting backpacks. To ensure your child’s safety, make sure their backpack is properly sized, the straps are worn correctly, and that the bag is not overstuffed. Ideally, backpacks should weigh no more than 15 percent of your child’s weight.
For additional safety measures, some schools have implemented a clear backpack rule or have eliminated lockers entirely. If this is the case for you, adjustments may need to be made in terms of bag size and what your child carries to school.
You should speak to the nurse and school administration regarding any health issues, medication, or accommodations needed for your child. In most schools, medications are not allowed to be kept in a student’s possession (including OTC medications), so figure out the procedures you’re expected to follow.
Parents should also read and review emergency procedures and consent to treatment forms to clearly understand what emergency treatments are provided for students.
If your schools don’t require updated forms prior to registration each year, take a few moments to go online or in person to check your contact information for updates. Make sure parents, close family, and other approved contacts are listed with the correct phone numbers.
To prepare for an emergency, have your child memorize a guardian’s phone number and the best way to reach them.
Cell phone use
As your children becomes old enough for their own cell phone or tablet, review good social media skills, discuss privacy issues, and have a conversation about device monitoring.
Many parents opt to receive all incoming and outgoing text messages or implement other parental controls on their children’s phones. To find out your options, talk to your cell phone provider.
Keep an open and honest dialogue with your children about what they see online and how to report inappropriate or illegal online behavior, or anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
The safety conversation may seem like a downer compared to talking about new classes, teachers, and friends, but it can also make a huge difference in keeping your child safe as the new school year gets underway. We hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful year.