6 Tips to Stay Safe on Campus

6 Tips to Stay Safe on Campus

The challenges that keep parents awake at night

Chief among any college student parent’s concern is how their student will stay safe on campus. Parties are an obvious source of worry, but other challenges keep parents awake at night, too. So how do you protect your student even though they’re far away from home? Here are six tips to stay safe on campus.

The quick answer is preparation. But the better (and more nuanced) answer is having an awareness of and a plan for many potential situations. From smart cybersecurity practices to protecting older family members from the dangers of COVID-19, here are six ways your collegian can stay safe on campus and beyond.

Use common sense – especially after dark. Get to know the campus security office. It may not be the first thing your student thinks about when starting in college, but it can an essential resource for all things safety, as well as offering additional benefits like free rides after dark. They can show you the safest routes to travel on and around campus, in addition to the locations of the blue safety lights you learned about during your prospective student tour.

Learning campus-specific best practices is important, but you’ll also want to stress the importance of commonsense safety tips, such as:
• Never let a stranger – even a familiar stranger – into a dorm or apartment building if they don’t have a key.
• Never walk alone after dark – use a campus-sponsored safe escort service instead.
• When using a rideshare service, check the car to make sure the license plate and driver ID matches the information on the app before getting in.

Learn how to drink alcohol. Teens who might experiment in high school still have a lot to learn about safe drinking in college. And though not driving after drinking is the cardinal rule of alcohol, college students, in particular, have more to consider.
• Never consume a drink delivered by someone else, especially a stranger.
• Never leave a drink unattended on a bar top or table.
• Avoid drinking too much, too quickly – remember, it can take up to 30 minutes to feel the effects of alcohol.
• Use the buddy system. Never let an intoxicated friend leave a party alone, and consider using a safety app that’s GPS-enabled. '

Mind your wallet. College students don’t just have personal safety and alcohol-related issues to worry about. They’re also bombarded with offers from credit card companies and student loan lenders. Teens who haven’t learned the basics of personal finance are at risk of putting their financial health in jeopardy.

'Things to Watch • Debt. The promise seems so simple: Apply for this credit card, pay for that expensive spring break trip or new pair of shoes using plastic, and pay it off over time! Except that when the bill comes, there’s no money to pay it – and the total owed after interest is a lot more than your student thinks they’ll have to pay.
• Credit score. It is never too early to teach smart credit habits, so encourage your teen to learn about scoring and how using tools like credit cards affect it.
• Fraud. Teach your teen that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Fraudulent businesses, like for-pay scholarship locator websites, are just that – fraudulent. Encourage them to use legitimate scholarship websites instead.

Finally, remind them to watch their physical wallet. While campuses are generally safe, general theft or robberies are entirely possible.

Stay safe online. Cybersecurity is one of the biggest challenges faced by businesses, governments, and individuals. In 2020, chances are your student is spending even more time on the internet, so now’s the perfect time to teach how to stay safe online.

There is a wide range of ways that thieves and other criminals use information obtained online to take advantage of unsuspecting people. That could include phishing scams that steal money or information or cyberstalking, leading to physical or emotional harm.

Best practices include:
• Never use the same password twice.
• Never use unsecured public Wi-Fi to access private accounts.
• Use difficult-to-guess passwords.
• Never reveal important details such as social security number or banking login information to a stranger calling on the phone.
• Never reveal too much about your whereabouts online.
• Never meet a stranger for the first time in a private home or secret location.
• Always tell friends where you’re going, who you’re with, and when you’ll be back if you’re meeting an online friend in person for the first time.

Learn basic self-defense. Healthline reports that 81% of 1,000 women surveyed said they’d been the victim of “some form” of harassment, including sexual assault. But men are also victims of assault, robbery, and other violent crimes. And learning basic selfdefense techniques can help people of all types protect themselves from physical attacks.

The Healthline reports observed that:
• Women who take self-defense classes feel more confident about themselves and positive about their bodies.
• Self-defense moves work best when the victim attacks vulnerable parts of the body, such as the throat, eyes, or groin.
• Personal protection accessories like pepper spray can provide effective defense and allow time to escape.

Make like you have a plan (even if you don’t). Finally, make sure your student knows how to look like they know what they’re doing. Simply walking with purpose, without headphones, is an excellent way to prevent harassment or even an attack. In addition to walking with purpose, paying attention to surroundings is critical – especially when alone and unlocking a car or house door.

Long story short, you’re highly invested in helping your student maintain their personal safety. You’ve taught them the basics, like avoiding drinking and driving as well as using the buddy system. Now you’ll want to cover advanced topics, like cybersecurity, avoiding jobsearch and scholarship fraud, and taking basic self-defense.

This article originally appeared in the January February 2021 issue of Campus Security Today.


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