8 Halloween safety tips

Oct 19, 2009 at 10:13 a.m. ET

The sun can't set early enough on October 31st -- the kids are out the door as fast as possible. You want them to enjoy Halloween, but you also want to be sure they're safe. Here are some pointers for making sure your kids enjoy the holiday as safely as possible.

Tween boy in reflective halloween costumeBack in the olden days (when we were kids) the world was a safer place. Sure, we worried a little about razor blades in apples, but our urban legends don't hold a candle to what's out there today.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Halloween is the most dangerous evening for children to be on the streets -- there are actually four times as many pedestrian child deaths on October 31 than on other nights. Add to that the threat of sexual predators, and it's a wonder we let the kids out of the house at all.

High tech protection

Fortunately, there are ways to keep your kids safe. Trip Wakefield, CEO of ThinAir Wireless advises parents to download the Peace of Mind (POM) Offender Locator, an iPhone app which quickly and accurately pinpoints sexual offenders in any neighborhood.  "You can do a quick scan for registered sex offenders in the neighborhood, before heading out to go trick-or-treating," he says.
ThinAir also makes a GPS device called a POM Guardian you can use to track older kids in real time. The waterproof Guardian has a 5-10 day battery life, and Wakefield recommends using it "to track high risk individuals like teenage drivers. It's all about awareness," he says. "Clip the Guardian to your child's belt for those 'what if?' moments." 

Old-fashioned safety

Of course, with small children, no technology is a substitute for close parental supervision. It's important to talk to your kids before trick-or-treating starts to help them understand the rules. Let them know that you'll only visit lit houses in neighborhoods you know well. Walk only on sidewalks, and don't cut across dark driveways or yards.
Encourage kids to use makeup instead of masks, and make sure their shoes are suitable for outdoor walking. Check that costumes don't drag on the ground, and of course, don't let kids use swords, knives, or anything else that could actually hurt someone. 

Tips for tweens

Those tween years are a difficult time. You have kids who think they're old enough to go out on their own. You want to encourage their independence, but you need them to be safe. What can you do? Here are a few tips. 
  • Give your tween a cell phone and instruct him to check in every 15 minutes.
  • Drive your tween around. Let him walk up and down the blocks without you, but stay close by in the car.  
  • Make sure your tween's costume is visible. Use reflective tape if necessary.
  • Instruct your kids not to eat any homemade goods, and have them bring all candy home for a quick inspection before eating anything. 
Take the time to plan and prepare, and the only scary thing will be the amount of candy in your house on Halloween.

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