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Safe at school: Campus safety tips for college kids

Sherri Kuhn writes about raising teenagers, the perils of a clean home, wistfulness over babies, and anything else that makes her laugh (or cry) in the years between changing diapers and wearing them. With a son just starting college and...

Don't skip this conversation about campus safety

Is your college kid getting ready to head to campus? Whether your child is a returning student or a freshman heading away to college for the first time, he or she needs advice about staying safe when on campus. Set your mind at ease and share these expert tips for campus safety.

With all the excitement of sending your teen off to college, you might not be thinking much about campus safety issues. But crime on campus is a fact of life, and a safety discussion is a must. Campus life may seem pretty laid-back and carefree, but your teen needs to be aware of the potential dangers.

Keep your things safe

A generation ago, there wasn't much of anything valuable in a college dorm room — except maybe some loose change in the couch cushions. But this generation of college-bound teens has lots of valuable electronic gadgets and smartphones, laptops, tablets, headphones and sound systems are all easy for someone to steal if you don't protect them.

Many dorm rooms now have a locking cabinet or a separate locking bedroom for each student, unlike the more traditional communal dorm rooms. You can also buy small safe bags designed for dorm rooms with alarms and locks for extra security. Talk to your teen about where she will keep her valuables when they aren't in class with her, even if she's just going down the hall. With so many students coming and going in residential living areas an open door can be an invitation to anyone — and it only takes a moment for a tablet or laptop to disappear.

Campus safety is key

As a parent, the most valuable thing dropped off on a college campus is your child. How can you find out about the safety and security of a college campus? Robert Siciliano with BestHomeSecurityCompanies.com shares that the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (originally known as the Campus Security Act) requires colleges and universities to disclose information about crime in their area, both on and off campus.

"Do your research into the crime climate of the learning institution you plan on attending," says Siciliano. "Don't sit idly back and hope everything will be OK. Educational institutions aren't meant to be secure fortresses, which makes them vulnerable to predators," he adds. Parents can call campus security offices for statistics on crime in the area and on campus. "You want to know exactly what has taken place in the last three to five years," he says. "If you go to the campus, have an on-site meeting with the security office. It is in your best interest and required by law for colleges to offer personal security training for their students." Siciliano also suggests finding out what technology systems are in place on campus to head off danger, and what types of security personnel are on staff to assist students.

Tips for staying safe

Rick Shaw is CEO of Awareity, a privately held organization that works with college leaders to make sure they have the right tools to identify and report concerning behavior and that the right staff is notified for proactive intervention and response. "The best way to ensure campus safety is through proactive prevention efforts," Shaw shares. "Too often we read about incidents where students and staff came face-to-face with threats and their only option was to react. And too often we learn tragedies were preventable because pre-incident indicators were known by one or more people," he adds. Shaw shares these tips for being proactive:

  • Being aware of surroundings in classrooms, dorms, cafeteria, sporting events, etc.
  • Being aware of surroundings when walking on campus or in parking lots, etc.
  • Monitoring social media sites and other communications (texts, e-mails, etc.) 
  • Reporting concerning behaviors of others (fellow students, roommates, visitors on campus, etc.) 
  • Reporting suspicious incidents you experience or observe
  • Reporting sexual assault incidents and attempts
  • Reporting hazing, intolerance, etc.
  • Reporting drugs, alcohol, weapons, etc.

Help your college kid stay safe on campus with these safety tips, and you will both rest easier at night.

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