As a safety and security expert, I know that you don't want a lecture that will steal the joy of the holiday season. Therefore, I won't give you one. However, I would not being doing my job if I didn't give you a few safety tips that can help you stay in the holiday spirit while protecting you, your loved ones and your valuables. I will keep it brief and discuss some things that you may not have thought about.
Every time I discuss safety, I lead with the advice that you simply must trust your gut instincts — period. We have a built-in survival mechanism that is hardly ever wrong. In the interest of being polite, we often ignore it. That is what gets us into trouble. Law-enforcement officials and rape-crisis counselors state that in a great majority of their victim interviews, the victims say they had a funny feeling. They say that they knew something was wrong — but they ignored that voice.
At this celebratory time of year, it is easy to let your guard down and be nicer than normal to a stranger, an acquaintance, a co-worker or even a family member who makes you uncomfortable for whatever reason. You will not always be able to pinpoint the reason. Whether it is declining that kiss under the mistletoe or refusing an offer to help you carry your bags, escort you to your car, buy you a drink etc., anything that makes you uncomfortable, sounds the alarm deep in your gut or makes the hairs stand up on your arms is a signal to get out of that situation — no questions asked. Don't second-guess your survival mechanism.
Social media is all about bragging about what you have, what you are going to get, where you are going, what you are doing etc. Too much information can get you into trouble. We are often fooled by what I call the myth of privacy settings. Please know that there is no such thing as privacy in cyberspace. Once you push "publish" or "send," your information is out there for the world to see.
Those 300 so-called friends on your social-media sites are able to share what you share with them. They can forward or repost personal information that you thought you were just sharing with your small group of friends. Keep this in mind when you share your Christmas wish list that includes that 3-carat diamond ring, the latest and greatest new smartphone or the fancy new tablet or laptop. Be even more careful when on Christmas Day, you post about the beautiful and fabulous gifts that you received (along with pictures of same). If the photo is taken with your smartphone with the GPS enabled, then the embedded geotag will help the criminal who is casing you (in front of his computer, from the comfort of his home) to find the exact location of his next target: you and your Christmas gifts!
Social media is no place to post your holiday vacation plans. Criminals can look up your address (there are so many websites that publish this public information) and pay a visit to your home while you are away.
The holiday season is a time for family togetherness. Not to put a damper on your family events, but you need to remain vigilant about the safety of you and your children — even around family members. According to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 2/3 of assaults are committed by someone known to the victim (not strangers), 38 percent of rapists are friends or acquaintances of the victim and 44 percent of victims are under 18 years of age.
I tell you these startling statistics to say that this isn't the time of year to let your guard down. This is not the time to leave your children with friends or family members who you may not know very well while you go out shopping or socializing with the rest of the family. This is not the time of year to ignore your gut when a friend or family member makes you uncomfortable. Don't blow it off so as not to cause problems during the holiday for everyone else. Safety takes priority over hurt feelings or being teased for being a prude or an overly protective parent to your child.
With all of that being said, use your common sense, take appropriate precautions and have a wonderful holiday season!
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