Kids Summer Safety Guide

How do you keep your kids safe during the summer?

Kids are still learning how to navigate the world. They don’t understand why some things are unsafe, so the responsibility of preparing them falls on parents like you. But what if you don’t know how to prepare them for safety during the summer?

That’s where ASecureLife comes in. We want your kids to stay safe, and we’re here with summer safety tips to make that happen.

Step-by-step guide to kid summer safety

In this guide, we’ll answer questions such as, “How do I keep my kids safe in the car?” and “What are the chances of someone kidnapping my children?” We’ve focused on the following areas:

Travel Safety

Travel safety

How do I keep my kids safe away from home?

First off, always understand where you’re going. Traveling with children in New York City, for example, is much different than traveling with kids in Choteau, Montana. And going out of the country is a different beast than either of those things.

Travel Safety Expert Quote

Different countries have different conventions and risks. For example, when visiting cathedrals in Italy, sleeveless tops or short bottoms are frowned upon. If you and your children showed up at one of these landmarks dressed in the wrong clothes, you’d be refused entry.

Other missteps can have more severe consequences. The US Department of State has tips and checklists to keep your family safe in any travel location.

How do I keep my kids safe in the car?

Sadly, car crashes are in the top three leading causes of child deaths.1 Happily, studies show that buckling up reduces car crash fatalities by about half. 2

For smaller kids, using a seat belt includes using the correct car seat. Car seat laws vary from state to state, so look up yours to make sure your children are using the correct car seat for as long as they need to. Also examine the height and weight limits for each individual car seat and booster seat, as some laws defer to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

With older kids, make sure shoulder seat belts are locked. Some have an automatic locking retractor (ALR). This means you have to pull the seat belt out and let it retract after buckling up. If you don’t, the belt won’t lock when the passenger jolts forward during a collision or even an abrupt stop. So lock any seat belts with ALRs before driving off.

If a seatbelt has an ELR, or emergency locking retractor, you don’t have to lock it beforehand. The lock will react automatically during an incident. Convenient, yeah? Just know that you can’t use only an ELR with a car seat. If you don’t have an ALR, that seat will go flying. Luckily, some seat belts have both.

ASL How To

Testing seat belts

You can test a shoulder belt to see if it has an ALR by buckling up and stretching the belt to its limit. If it locks after snapping back in place, it has an ALR. If it doesn’t, it has an ELR.

How do I keep my kids safe on a plane?

Car seats aren’t just for cars. Infants and small children should also use theirs on planes because takeoffs and landings can get bumpy. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states that any FAA-approved CRS (child restraint systems, which include car seats) must be allowed by airlines when a parent purchases a separate seat for the child.3 Approved CRS are labeled with stickers by the manufacturers.

If you have to send your kid on a solo plane trip, the airline should have guidelines for unaccompanied minors. An airline employee will escort your child on and off their flight, so talk to them about how to recognize official employees and avoid strangers. See the section on stranger safety to learn more.

Crowd Safety

Crowd safety

How do I prevent my kids getting lost in a crowd?

When going to crowded places, we recommend dressing children in bright, distinctive outfits or accessories. This makes a child easier to visually track. Not just for you—if they wander off in spite of your watchful eyes, bright clothing is more likely to be noticed by witnesses.

We also suggest using a GPS tracking device. Features vary between brands, but in addition to tracking location, some of these devices also monitor speed, send an alert when the device is underwater, or go off when the child leaves a set area.

Even if someone intentionally takes your child (a worst-case scenario), some child GPS devices have battery lives of over a day. That means you can track the child’s location for hours, which would be a huge help for law enforcement.

That doesn’t mean you don’t need to keep an eye out in a crowd. Even a GPS device is fallible, and it could get lost, broken, or removed. It just adds an extra layer of security in case the unthinkable happens.

Crowd Safety Expert Quote

What if my kids gets lost in a crowd anyway?

Before going to a crowded place, you can tell your child that if they can’t find you, they should stay where they are. That makes it easier for you to backtrack and find them again.4 This is especially true in crowded, unfamiliar places like theme parks and large stores.

You can also write your phone number on your children’s arms with a Sharpie. Tell your kids that if they get lost, they should find another family with kids and ask to borrow a cellphone.

Either way, you should have a plan and share it with your child. Getting lost in a crowd is scary (for both you and your kid)! Knowing what to do when it happens makes it a little less terrifying and keeps your child calm.

Stranger Safety

Stranger safety

What are the chances of someone kidnapping my children?

Kids spend more time outside in the summertime, which makes them more susceptible to predators. The chances of your child getting kidnapped are low, but there’s an increased risk during the summer. More Amber Alerts are issued in May through September than in any other five-month period.5

The best way to protect your kids from strangers is to educate them on stranger danger.

How do I talk to my kids about strangers?

Not all strangers are dangerous, and you don’t want your children to be paralyzed by fear when they have to speak to, say, a grocery store cashier. Make it clear to your kids that not everyone is out to get them, but not everyone has good intentions, either. They can learn to tell the difference by being aware and trusting their instincts.

Talk to your kids about lures (tactics used to entice intended victims). Of known lures, the most used are the following:

  • Offering the child a ride, sweet treats, or money
  • Asking the child questions (such as directions)
  • Holding an animal6

 

Explain why these lures could be dangerous. For instance, you could say, “If a stranger offers you candy, they may be trying to get you to walk closer so they can grab you. You should say no and leave unless I’m with you and I say it’s okay, like on Halloween.” The more kids understand, the less likely they are to rationalize themselves into a scary situation. But assure them that this is extremely unlikely to happen to them. They don’t need to live in fear; they just need to be prepared.

Authority figures aren’t automatically trustworthy, but your children may find themselves in situations where they have no one else to trust. Talk to your children about uniforms and badges for authority figures in different situations: police officers, flight attendants, theme park employees, and so on. Explain how sometimes they may have to talk to these kinds of strangers—but they should still be cautious, especially if the authority figure approaches them first. They should always stay in the sight of others. If something feels off, they should leave.

How do I talk to my kids about known “strangers”?

Kids can be abducted or hurt by those they already know. In 2018, 65% of abducted children were taken by someone they had a previous relationship with.7

Sit down with your children and discuss suspicious behavior in adults:

  • If an adult insists on being alone with a child
  • If an adult tells a child something should be a secret between the two of them
  • If an adult wants to take a child somewhere without the child asking their parents for permission

 

Stress that these things can happen even with trusted adults like family members, neighbors, or camp counselors. You might consider coming up with a code word that only you and your kids know. If the trusted adult doesn’t say the code word, your kids will know whatever they’re doing isn’t okay.

Stranger Safety Expert Quote

What if someone tries to kidnap my children?

Teach your kids to react, not go quietly. Incidents recorded by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children show that of the reported children who successfully escaped would-be kidnappers:

  • 51% walked or ran away from the suspect (no physical contact)
  • 29% reacted some other way (yelled, kicked, pulled away, or attracted attention)8

 

Tell your kids that if they ever get in a situation with an adult where they feel uncomfortable, even if they’re not sure why, they’re allowed to say “no” to the adult. They can say that they need to talk to you before doing anything with the adult.

What’s the risk of kidnapping in my state?

This map shows the states with the highest and lowest Amber Alerts last year, based on information from the National Center for Missing Children 2018 Report. You should be careful no matter where you live, but this map will help you gauge the abduction risk level in your state. More knowledge never hurts.

Amber Alerts by State Map

States with the highest number of Amber Alerts:

  • Texas
  • Ohio
  • California
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Colorado
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia

States and territories with no reported Amber Alerts:

  • Alaska
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • US Virgin Islands
  • Vermont
Swimming Safety

Swimming safety

How do I keep my kids safe in the pool?

Drowning is a leading cause of death in people aged one to 14 (right behind motor vehicle crashes), so teach your kids to be safe swimmers.9 A shocking number of kids in the U. S. don’t know how to swim—around 50% of black, Latinx, and white kids, says the Red Cross.10 There’s no set age for the milestone of learning how to swim. It depends entirely on the child’s readiness and how much time they spend near swimmable water.11

For children who don’t know how to swim or are still learning, a well-fitting life jacket is a good safety precaution. Kid life jacket sizes correlate to weight, so make sure the jacket is for the child’s current weight.12 Life jackets aren’t something you purchase a size too big for your kid to grow into.

When looking for a life jacket, check the labels. In the US, if a jacket says “not a life-saving device,” it isn’t safe to wear in the water.13 Also, outdoor equipment manufacturer REI recommends that life jackets for infants have padded head support, a handle for parents to hold onto as needed, and a crotch strap to keep the child in place.14

If your kid already knows how to swim, talk to them about the depth of each section of the pool. Being a strong swimmer in four feet of water isn’t the same as being a strong swimmer in 11 feet of water. Let them know if it’s not safe to jump or dive in any part of the pool.

Swimming Safety Expert Quote

How do I keep my kids safe in natural water?

If you’re swimming in a natural body of water, show your kids how far out they can wade or swim without getting caught in the tide. Should a child get caught in a rip current or just a regular current that’s too strong for them, the first thing they should do is call for help if able.15

Kids should wear life jackets in natural water, just like in swimming pools. If a child gets swept off the shore, a life jacket will keep them afloat. This is crucial since fatigue from panicky swimming can lead to drowning.

ASL Remember

Boating incidents

Kids (and adults) of all ages should always wear a life jacket when boating or doing water sports of any kind. Even good athletes can take a spill. It's best to prepare for any unlucky moments.

How can I keep my kids from drowning when we’re not swimming?

If you have a pool at home, keep it gated when you aren’t using it. The Red Cross recommends installing a four-sided fence with a secure door that a child can’t open or climb over or under. Having a four-sided fence over a three-sided fence reduces a child’s risk of drowning by 83%.16

Bath tubs and hot tubs can also be a hazard, especially to young children. Children younger than one year old are more likely to drown at home than at a public swimming area. Even just a few inches of water at a tub’s bottom can pose a risk, so always keep an eye on the little ones when there’s a bath running.

Outdoor Safety

Outdoor safety

How do I keep track of my kids when they’re playing outside?

This is a tough question to answer. You can’t (and shouldn’t) hover over your children every minute of every day. But you do need to know where they are and what they’re doing.

Start by talking to your children about unsafe places to play. That could be your wasp-infested shed, the street, the park on the other side of town, the neighbor’s heap of scrap metal—anything you can think of. You can add more locations to the list as they come up, because kids tend to naturally find fun but unsafe play places.

Outdoor Safety Expert Quote

When your kids are out with friends, set a standard that they must always tell you where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re doing. When changing locations or activities, they need to contact you.

You may also want to consider getting limited-use phones for children who aren’t ready for fully functioning ones. These phones have preset contacts so your kids contact only the approved numbers.

How do I keep my kids safe on hot days?

The sun is fickle. It warms kids up, but it can also burn them, dehydrate them, and give them heat exhaustion or heat stroke. In fact, kids are more likely to get heat exhaustion or heat stroke than adults are.17 We suggest that kids apply sunscreen, drink plenty of water, and not sit in parked cars on hot days.

Babies under six months old should wear hats and other sun-protective clothing, but beyond that, kids should always wear sunscreen when playing outside in summer.18 Overcast skies and shade may not protect them from sunburns. It’s never too early to start preventing skin cancer.

On hot days, kids should drink water frequently. Dr. Joe Congeni of Akron’s Children Hospital suggests keeping water within kids’ lines of sight; they’ll be more likely to remember to drink if they see water.19

According to Dr. Congeni, “If a child is participating in strenuous, physical activity for more than an hour, he’s starting to lose electrolytes, too, so using rehydrating sports drinks like Gatorade that contain electrolytes (sodium, potassium and calcium) is OK. Energy drinks aren’t OK.” Neither, he says, is soda, tea, or coffee. The caffeine makes children urinate, which offloads all the liquid they just drank.

Finally, when it comes to leaving kids alone in the car during the summer: don’t. Every year, an average of 38 children die of heat after being left alone in a parked car.20 Even if you think you’ll be gone for just a few minutes, don’t risk it. Bring your kids inside with you.

How can I prevent bicycle-related injuries?

The first rule of bike safety is to wear a helmet, even on a short ride around the block. Accidents can happen anywhere, and it’s best to be prepared. Using other safety equipment, like wrist, elbow, and knee guards, is also a good way to prevent bike injury.

When you can, keep young kids on the sidewalk so they’re not riding in the road. Once you think they’re ready to ride in the road, remind them to ride in the same direction as traffic. And always have kids wear bright colors and use bicycle lights, even during the day.21 Increased visibility is never a bad idea.

How can I prevent and treat other sports-related injuries?

With kids going away to soccer camp and taking summer rec classes, parents should stay on their toes. About one-third of childhood injuries in the US are sports related.22

The most common sports injuries are sprains and strains, which can generally be treated by rest, ice packs, and elevation of the injured body part. You probably won’t need to go to a hospital for a sprain or strain, but if the injury doesn’t get better after several days of treatment, take your child to their pediatrician. Something more severe may be going on.

The most dangerous sports injuries are head injuries. About a fifth of traumatic injuries in American kids happen when they’re playing sports. And, although deaths from sports injuries are uncommon, they usually result from brain injuries. So if your child gets a head injury on the field, speak with a physician right away—even if that means going to the emergency room. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

How can I prevent and treat insect bites?

Insect bites aren’t just itchy and uncomfortable; they can also spread disease. Protect your kids by spraying them with repellent at night and in the woods and mountains.

Your garden-variety mosquitoes can be deterred with repellents alone, but be cautious. You don’t want to use a concentration higher than 30% of DEET on kids.23 There are also some alternatives to DEET, like KBR 3023 (picaridin) or PMD (oil of lemon eucalyptus). Avoid using those on kids below age three, and don’t use any repellents on babies under two months.24

Tick prevention is a little more involved. In addition to putting repellent on your kids and dressing them in long-sleeved shirts and pants while hiking or camping, you should check them for ticks afterward. Remove any ticks with tweezers, and bathe the kids just to be safe. If a child develops a rash or a fever after being bitten by a tick, these are symptoms of tick-borne disease. They’ll need medical attention.

Wrapup

By following these safety tips, you’ll increase the chances of having a fun, safe summer with your family.

For more information on keeping your children safe, check out the additional resources at the end of this post.

  1. Injury Facts, “Death by Demographics
  2. CDC, “Seat Belts: Get the Facts
  3. Federal Aviation Administration, “Advisory Circular
  4. CBS New York, “Tips For Keeping Kids Safe In Crowds This Summer
  5. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children®, “2018 AMBER Alert Report
  6. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children®, “Analysis of Attempted Abduction Trends
  7. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children®, “2018 AMBER Alert Report
  8. National Center for Missing & Exploited Children®, “Analysis of Attempted Abduction Trends
  9. Injury Facts, “Death by Demographics
  10. American Red Cross, “Drowning Prevention & Facts
  11. Safe Kids, “Pool Safety
  12. Today’s Parent, “8 Life Jacket Tips That Can Save Your Child’s Life
  13. NRS, “Is Your Life Jacket Safe?
  14. REI Co-op, “How to Choose PFDs (Life Jackets) for Kids
  15. American Red Cross, “Swimming Safely at the Beach
  16. American Red Cross, “Home Pool & Hot Tub Safety
  17. What Parents Ask, “Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke in Kids—Signs and Treatment
  18. Mayo Clinic, “When Is It OK for a Baby to Wear Sunscreen?
  19. Akron Children’s Hospital, “6 Tips To Keep Your Kids Hydrated On Hot Summer Days
  20. KidsandCars.org, “Heat Stroke
  21. Safe Kids, “Bike
  22. Stanford Children’s Health, “Sports Injury Statistics
  23. KidsHealth, “Are Insect Repellents With DEET Safe for Kids?
  24. CDC, “Stop Ticks to Avoid Lyme and Other Tickborne Diseases

Methodology

To understand the risks of the summer season, we focused on five categories: travel safety, crowd safety, stranger safety, pool safety, and outdoor safety. We used data from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® per state and per month to determine which states and months have the highest numbers of Amber Alerts.

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