School started back Monday, and Burke County Sheriff Banks Hinceman is offering tips to make sure children stay safe this school year.
“Parents have an opportunity as the school year begins to share some important information about personal safety with their children. Teaching kids about potential dangers can help them learn to avoid those dangers,” Hinceman said.
Hinceman encouraged parents to take time at the start of the school year to check the location sharing settings on their children’s electronic devices to be sure this information is not easily available via device applications.
“The start of the school year is also a really good time to remind your kids just how much information is available about us online,” Hinceman said. “We must teach our children that people who do not have their best interest at heart can use that personal information in a way that might put them in danger.”
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Hinceman said children should remember to always walk with a friend – two heads are better than one, especially if there’s an emergency.
Avoid wearing headphones while walking alone or with friends. This will make it easier to hear your surroundings and know if someone is approaching you.
A stranger is anyone you or your parents don’t know well, and never take anything like candy or medicine from someone you don’t know. It may have a dangerous substance that could hurt you.
If a stranger stops to ask you questions, keep walking. Do not approach their vehicle, even if they call you by name. They could have seen your name on a backpack or lunchbox, or even in a local newspaper or on social media.
Strangers can use tricky tactics to persuade you to go with them, like asking you to walk with them so they can show you something, asking you to help look for a lost pet or person or telling you that your parents are hurt and offering to take you to them, Hinceman said. Unless you know the person, do not go with them.
If you think you’re in trouble, yell for help and run to the nearest business, school, crossing guard or law enforcement officer.
Always tell an adult you trust like a parent, family member or teacher if a stranger has approached you, and never share your personal information like your name and address with someone you don’t know.
Families should look to establish a secret family “code word,” and children should be taught never to go with someone who doesn’t know the code word.
“By taking the time to carefully prepare your child on how to handle these situations, you can ensure your child’s safety whether they are on their way to school or an after-school activity, heading home, playing on a playground or riding their bikes,” Hinceman said.
He also encouraged parents to continue to educate their students about the danger of drugs and substances that can hurt them.