Personal Safety on-and off-line

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Does finding 25-minutes to talk to your busy tweens and teens about safety seem impossible? Try the following discussion starters.

KIDS  (ages 5-8)


  1. Could you tell me our home address? How about our home number? My work number? My cell phone number?
  2. Has anyone ever called or knocked on the door while I was gone? What did you do?
  3. Lets make a list of 3 people whom you can call in case of an emergency if you can’t reach me.


  1. What is your favorite website? Could you show me?
  2. Does your screen name or e-mail address give clues about who you are you are, such as your name or age? If so, let’s come up with a safer one.
  3. Who are the friends you talk to on the internet? Do you know all of them in person?


  1. If an adult approached you and asked for help, what would you do?
  2. If you got lost while we were in the park, at the store, or at a sports game, what would you do? Whom should you ask for help?
  3. If someone touches you in a way that makes you uncomfortable or tries to take you away, you should yell “NO!” at the top of your voice. Let’s practice saying “NO!” Then let’s see how fast you can run away.

TWEENS (ages 9-12)


  1. Which websites do you like to visit? Can you show them to me?
  2. Have you ever come across anything on the Web which made you feel uncomfortable?
  3. If someone sent you a mean text message or IM what would you do?
  4. What do you thin about sharing passwords with your friends? Do you think it’s okay to share your password with your best friend?
  5. When you come across pop-ups advertising offers or contests for free games, food or other prizes, do you enter your personal information to try to win them?


  1. If something happened at school that made you feel bad or scared, who would you talk to? Would you tell me?
  2. Before you and your friends go out do you know where to go and what to do if you are separated from them?
  3. How comfortable are you saying “no” to your friends when they ask you to do something that you don’t want to do?
  4. Has anyone ever tried to get you to go somewhere to do something you didn’t feel comfortable doing? What did you do?
  5. Has anyone ever touched you in a way that made you feel scared or uncomfortable? Did you know what to do?

TEENS (ages13-17)


  1. What kind of information do you feel safe to share about yourself online?
  2. Do you feel comfortable with the information that you have posted online, knowing that it might be seen by anyone on your friends’ list, as well as officials at your school, college and university admissions departments, and employers?
  3. Have you and your friends talked about what types of pictures are okay to post online? What about the types of comments you leave on each other’s pages?
  4. Do you know about the different types of scams that people run to try to gain your personal information?
  5. Have you ever been insulted, or traded insults with anyone, through texts, e-mail, or IM?


  1. Do you or your friends stay together when you go out or do you split up? Do you know what to do if someone tries to touch or grab you inappropriately?
  2. Do you pay attention to your surroundings, especially when walking alone? What would you do if someone approached you on foot or in a vehicle?
  3. What would you do if the person who drove you had been drinking alcohol or made you feel uncomfortable?
  4. How comfortable are you saying “no” to your friends when they ask you to do something that don’t want to do?
  5. If you were bullied online or at school how would you react to the situation? Who are the trusted adults you could talk to if you were being bullied?

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Personal safety on-and off-line: Take 25 Make time to talk about child safety.

Former technology writer with the Atlantic Journal Constitution, Bill Husted, provides insights on how we can be “semi-safe” and still engage in social media in spite of its dangers. He stresses that social media users “Learn the Rules” that are offered for protecting one’s information, i.e., disclosures about what the site allows regarding sharing information with marketers and how security protection can be attained. He also urges that users not be crude and post information that can come back to haunt them. He provides examples of employers who routinely check social media accounts of job applicants that may result in costing one a potential job. Husted also suggests that users make an effort to “Keep Stuff Private,” such as the names of children, last names, or anything else that makes one an “easy find.” Included information that should be kept private includes upcoming vacations that leave your house empty and unguarded. Still another area of concern is that regarding the posting of pictures of family by exposing children to dangers. A more and more serious concern is that of hacking or the invasion of social media sites by “hackers.” This is largely due to “easy–to-crack” passwords rather than using passwords that are a random collection of letters and numbers rather than using personal information. Finally, Husted urges the social media user to “Stifle Yourself” by avoiding the impulse to vent about your boss, teachers and others. “What you say and do on social media sites exposes you and your family to many real risks—things that can cost you money, a job or even put a family member in physical danger.”

Husted, Bill (1/19/14) Social media can be friendly, but it also can endanger you, Naples Daily News, 8D-9D.