It didn’t seem that strange to you at first. After all, you were also watching the kids at the bus stop while they joked and played with each other, and she certainly seemed the in the right age range to be one of their parents too. But she wasn’t one of your neighbors, and she stayed across the street instead of coming to chat.
So when she showed up again the next day, you snapped a photo and reported it as suspicious using your Torch app. It only took a few seconds. She didn’t seem dangerous, necessarily. Just … off. But you figured it couldn’t hurt to have a record of it.
Keeping your kids safe is of course a huge priority for you. You work hard to keep them safe at home, and their teachers do the heavy lifting at school. But those transitions between the two can be tricky. Here are some tips for keeping children safe as they navigate from home to school.
For kids who bus.
Make sure you know the bus schedule, the driver, and the pick-up and drop-off points. Talk to your kids about bus stop guidelines: staying on the sidewalk at at least six feet from the street, always keeping an eye on their surroundings. Getting to the bus stop at least five minutes early means they won’t be rushing to catch up or in danger of missing the bus altogether.
On dropping off after school, it’s important that children head right to their destination after getting off the bus. There is a brief period of time where all traffic is still stopped in both directions to allow children to safely cross the road, even in the absence of a crosswalk.
If they decide instead to hang out, that crossing period is lost. The bus goes on, leaving children to contend with passing vehicles. Never cross behind a bus, where the driver can’t see. Instead, children should be taught to walk ten feet down the sidewalk and cross in front.
For kids who walk.
Walking to school has many benefits, including increased academic performance, happiness at school, and general activity levels. But it also requires special safety considerations. Before school begins, walk the route with them. Make sure they can do it in both directions from memory and know exactly where and how to cross the streets.
If there are a number of kids who live in your area (or along the route), consider arranging for them to walk together. Two or more children are much safer than one, and the larger the group, the better. Remind children that their job is to get to school. If some adult needs help, they should ask another adult, not a group of children.
Most areas are safe for groups of children walking, but if you feel more comfortable, you might think about organizing a walking bus. This is essentially just a walking carpool, where parents take turns walking a larger group of children to and from school.
For kids who ride or drive.
While dropping your children off yourself might seem like the safest option, it’s actually significantly more dangerous than walking or taking the school bus. Children are five times more likely to be killed while driving or being driven to school than while they are walking or cycling, and over 100 times more likely than while taking the school bus, which is the safest option of all. By far the biggest risk factor is teen driving. When inexperienced drivers face rush hour traffic, large numbers of pedestrians, and numerous distractions, tragedy can result.
If you’re driving your kids to school, pay close attention to the vehicles around you, as you’re likely to be surrounded by a number of distracted drivers. Never text or use a handheld device while driving near a school. If your teen is driving to school, don’t let them take all their friends along, as large numbers of passengers can be a major distraction. And regardless of age, consider using a password system for anyone who might need to pick your kids up in an emergency. There should be no time when your children are confused about whether or not you want them to get into a car with someone, even if that’s a friend or neighbor.
Keep an eye out for risky, dangerous, or suspicious behavior, and teach your kids to do the same. If they are old and responsible enough to handle a cell phone, consider installing an app like Torch on their phones as well as yours. This not only enables you to upload photos or share tips, it also provides alerts in your area, keeping both you and your children apprised of potential dangers nearby.
You didn’t think much about your Torch tip at the bus stop after that, at least until the woman suddenly stopped showing up. Then the story popped up in your local news. She was the mother of one of the children on your street. She had lost custody and there was a restraining order in place, but she was making plans to grab her daughter and take her to a piece of family land in rural Texas, and from there across the border into Mexico.
There was no mention of you in the news story, of course; that’s what anonymous tips are for. But you know you had a part in keeping one child safe. You, and Torch.
Download Torch today and help keep your neighborhood safe.