Safety on Campus & Beyond•
Posted on October 17 2019
"What happened?" we said as our daughter, Kelsey's, voice faded in and out. She was having a wonderful experience on her college trip abroad, but she had just been accosted. She proceeded to tell us that she was trying to catch up with her group, but was walking alone several blocks behind them. Out of no where, two young men approached her and tried to take her backpack. She turned and yelled while grabbing her backpack and they ran off. We could tell she was fine. In fact, she was feeling very confident that she was able to redirect a situation that could have had serious consequences.
It's no wonder that the top 5 fears of parents with a college bound teen are 1) accidents, 2) violence, 3) children feeling unsafe, 4) kidnapping and 5) bullying. Yet many of these fears may not be the biggest threat to your student. According to CBS news, the biggest threat to students today are getting ill, sleep deprivation, binge drinking and being infected by a sexually transmitted disease. However, it's still important to be prepared should a violent situation ever present itself.
Aside from the typical safety tips that most colleges include in their campus materials (lock all doors, stay sober, learn the campus), Grown & Flown note the importance of programming the number of your local campus police into your student's cell phone as well as the city police. Having this information readily available saves time allowing your student the opportunity to divert a potentially dangerous situation.
In an article by the National Home Security Alliance, "Keeping Your College Freshman Safe", the article teaches students how not to become an easy target. Their suggestions include: be alert to your surroundings, make eye contact, walk with purpose, and stay in well lit areas.
Many of these safety tips may be obvious to your student, but what are some safety tips they may be overlooking? First, do they use Uber? If so, there have been some concerns with ride share programs. According to the 2019 Mott Poll Report, "Ride sharing safety was recently in the news after a tragic case involving a South Carolina college student who was killed after mistakenly getting into what she believed was her Uber ride. A bill has since been introduced in the South Carolina Legislature to require Uber and Lyft drivers to use illuminated signs marking their vehicles."
To protect your student, Sherri Gordon recommends the following safety tips when using Uber or other ride share programs:
1) Match the License Plate With the App
2) Ask "Who are you waiting for?"
3) Determine If the Driver Looks Like the Photo in the App
4) Wait for the Ride Indoors
5) Never reveal Personal Details
6) Ride in the Backseat
7) Share Ride Details With Family or Friends
8) Rate the Driver
If the driver is unsafe or rude he/she should be reported so the company can strengthen its workforce.
Second, technology has entered the safety arena by creating an array of products to keep your student safe in his/her dorm or on campus. Some of our favorites include the Wearsafe tag. This device allows students to contact friends and family via a cell phone without actually using the phone. When pressed, the Wearsafe tag sends audio through the tag to anyone connected to the student through an app giving friends and family an idea of what is happening. For additional information about the tag, go to wearsafe.com
Other safety products worth mentioning include the Vigilant 130dB personal alarm (an alarm that promises to summon the neighbors), and invisaWear jewelry Each piece of jewelry is designed with an "SOS" button. When pressed, it sends a text message notifying up to 5 pre-selected emergency contacts your student's GPS location and that she/he is requesting help. Your student's phone and jewelry are paired using Bluetooth.
Finally, consider having your student sign up for the school's emergency communications system. Your student can also request emergency text alerts from his/her university's police department. In the event of an emergency, texts can be sent alerting them of a dangerous situation on campus.
Taking steps to protect your college student from harm while he/she pursues a college degree is a priority for most parents. The hope is certainly that your student will never need to use any of these defense mechanisms. However, preparing them for an emergency situation will increase their confidence and provide you some assurance that you did everything you could to keep them safe.