JACKSONVILLE, FL (June 14, 2012) - The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office would like to remind citizens of the following summer safety tips.
- It is not unusual for us to see a spike in property crimes during the summer months. Simple actions, such as keeping car doors locked; valuables out of plain sight; keeping the garage door closed and locked (even when you are home); all of these actions can help prevent you from becoming a victim of a property crime.
Parents and guardians – you are accountable for your juvenile children. Every year at this time we offer some practical tips to help parents and guardians set and keep boundaries for what will be acceptable summer behavior and what is not. But, at the end of the day, responsibility for setting and keeping these rules is up to the parent/legal guardian:
- Leaving a Young Person Home Alone
A big safety concern for parents is how to protect kids who are home alone during summer months. Only a parent can determine the “right age” for their child to be at home unsupervised, based on maturity level and other factors. NO CHILD should ever be given the responsibility of caring for another, younger sibling unless they are responsible, older children who would normally babysit for younger children who are not relatives.
- There are babysitting classes offered by area hospitals and non-profits. The minimum age for enrollment in those programs is usually 11 or 12.
- Again, parents must use discretion in making the decision to allow young people to stay home alone and/or care for other children, whether in your home or at someone else’s.
- The favorite rule uttered by parents is: “Don't let a stranger inside the house.” It's a good rule, but ineffective. “Stranger” is not the best word to use. Kids expect strangers to be “scary” when indeed they look like an everyday person and kids need to know that. And some of the greatest threats to a child’s safety can come from someone on the Internet and NOT necessarily at the front door.
There are a few rules parents need to teach a child who is home alone:
Does Jacksonville have a curfew? YES and it is enforced throughout the year.
- Keep All Doors Closed: Instead of telling kids not to let a stranger in, the safer rule needs to be: "Keep the doors shut and locked at all times." Instead of filling your child's head with "don'ts"; simply tell them to keep all the doors to the outside (including the garage) closed and locked. If someone comes to the door, your child can communicate with this person through the door, while on the phone with a trusted adult.
- Have a Check-In Time: Another thing parents should ask their child to do is call/text and let the guardian know when the child's location has changed; that he or she has arrived somewhere safely; or is home safely after an outing. Set a consistent time for the child to call you each day. You can start to worry if he/she doesn't meet this deadline. Children's activities should be approved by the parent or guardian.
- Know Exactly Who Your Child Is With: If a parent doesn't know his or her child's friends, and the parents or guardians of those friends, then it's not wise to let your child associate with them - either in your home or for outings. If a young person your child is associating with isn't someone you know, personally, that is a "red flag". If you don't have a contact name and number for the guardian of that person, how can you contact them in case of an emergency, or if your child is late returning home?
- Look Out for One Another: Find a close neighbor or friend who wouldn't mind your child calling him or her in case your child can't reach you. Make sure the child knows to call this person to chick in if you cannot be reached or if they need an adult's help. Grandparents can provide an excellent "assist" to parents, and if living in town might welcome a call from a grandchild to say he/she is home safely.
- Have a Plan: Parents need to remember that kids who are home alone are much more likely to encounter dangers such as fire from burning popcorn or falling down the stairs than being abducted by a stranger. It is very important that the family has a plan and knows how to react to different situations that may occur. Run practice drills and make sure your child does not hesitate or deviate from the plan that you have enacted.
- Rules for Internet Use: Children need to know what is OK to do until mom or dad gets home, and what is not. Getting started on summer reading assignments, letting the dog out, having a snack, what friends can come over, what websites they can visit and which are off limits. These are decisions and rules that a parent or guardian should discuss with the child and decide on, before summer vacation gets underway. There can be structure to a child's day, even if no one else is home, leaving less opportunity for an unsupervised child to get into trouble.
- Use Parental Controls on Television and Internet
A curfew applies to persons under 18 years of age. The curfew is 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday nights and midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. A person under 18 is exempt if he or she is:
1. With a parent or guardian or other person 18 or over who is authorized by the parent to have control over the child,
2. At or going to or from a job, school or church function,
3. Attending an event open to the public and supervised by adults and beginning no later than 10:00 p.m.,
4. In an area immediately adjacent to his or her residence
5. Running an emergency errand.
More information on safety tips can be found on this site under the Community Affairs section. Look for Community Education Brochures and Videos
- they are easy to download and free of charge.
Have a Safe Summer!