Downtime in the summer is often filled with shopping and socializing at the mall, a favorite gathering spot for tweens and teens. Ideally they'd be chaperoned, but you can use these tips to help your children stay safer if they're unchaperoned at a mall outing:
1. If you're dropping them off and picking them up, choose a pick up location that is easy for them to locate from both the inside and the outside of the mall.
2. If they're driving themselves, suggest outdoor parking spots vs. the parking deck. Yes, it's nice for the car to be in the shade, but parking decks can be dangerous.
3. If this is a new activity for your tween or teen, ask for check in calls or texts every hour or so.
4. Unfortunately, traffickers and predators frequent places where kids gather, and at malls there are also criminals looking to steal personal items like mobile phones, purses and purchases. Remind your kids to stay vigilant about their stuff, and not to interact with anyone who approaches them. This is especially important in the food court area where it's easy to get separated from your group, to leave your stuff on a table while you go to grab food, or to be approached by someone with bad intentions.
5. Safety in numbers is always important; make sure your child stays with the group and uses the buddy system if they need to use the restroom.
6. What about the market researchers? They seem to be swarming at malls with their name badges and clip boards. Almost always, participants in these polls are asked to fill out demographic and personal information to participate. This is one more way that your child's personal information (name/address/phone/email) can be compromised and share on the internet. It's best to instruct your children to choose privacy and stay away from these, even if they're offering a gift for participation.
7. Finally, awareness is the key to safety at the mall (and everywhere else). Remind your children to pay attention to who is around them, and especially pay attention to anyone who seems to be following them. If they feel unsafe for any reason, they can go into a store and inform a store employee.