Summer is such a wonderful time for children to savor a more relaxed schedule with time to enjoy outdoor activities. With that comes a challenge for parents, especially with younger children — keeping them safe. No one wants to think of summer as an “unsafe” time while enjoying a family camping trip or beach vacation, but there are plenty of dangers lurking out there that can be avoided. As parents, our number one job is protecting our children, so here are a few simple tips on how to make that happen:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drownings are the leading cause of injury and death for young children ages 1 to 4, and three children die every day from drowning. These are scary statistics, and the thought of one’s child drowning is unimaginable. So for parents, especially with little ones, the golden rule is children need constant supervision around water, no matter how well they may swim. Also, remember that if you are at a pool or beach where there is a lifeguard, these are added eyes but shouldn’t give us an excuse to turn away or not pay attention.
Making sure kids feel safe in the water and knowing what to do if they get in trouble is also key. Enrolling your child as a toddler in swim lessons or a water safety course is a great idea. We are fortunate to have great swim schools like La Petite Baleen (866-896-3603, swimlpb.com) and the Presidio YMCA (415-447-9622, ymcasf.org) right in our backyard. Both of these organizations offer lessons and teach water safety skills. For us, having our children be water safe was a huge priority, as their grandparents in the East Bay have a pool, and we often spend vacations near pools or an ocean.
This is something I have recently learned the importance of after having children and a few family scares of skin cancer. Parents, remember overexposure to sunlight is most damaging to the skin before age 18. The best tips to avoid this are to find shade when possible, cover up with hats, sunglasses, and UV clothing, and of course wear and reapply sunscreen. I was recently struck by a new report from the Environmental Working Group about sunscreen, which revealed that none of the sunscreens I was carrying in my car or beach bag made the top 20 on their best sunscreens list. In fact, those I was using (the easy-to-apply sunsticks and sprays) were ranked among the worst. I highly encourage you to check out their list of best sunscreens, which can be found at ewg.org/sunscreen.
Another key point to remember is sunscreen isn’t just for the beach — it should be applied daily for exposure at a park, sporting event, or any extended period of outdoor time. Last, don’t forget about yourself. There have been numerous occasions where after getting all three children lathered in sunscreen I have forgotten to put it on myself and paid the price with a painful sunburn.
Summer safety doesn’t just apply to outside elements. With more time on their hands, children can encounter safety issues on their screens and devices, too. One of the best things we can do is talk to our children about Internet safety and what that means. Give them clear guidelines, including never giving out their full name, address, phone number, or school to anyone online. Another important tip is to make sure to enable child safety controls. On YouTube, parents can turn on the safety mode that filters out inappropriate videos and helps keep kids from stumbling onto inappropriate content.
Another tool we utilize in our house is Google’s Safe Search, which allows our children to search the Internet but avoid explicit videos and content. For older children who may be just starting to utilize social media sites, as a family, make sure to talk about what is appropriate to share. And finally, set time limits. There is no harm in vegging out with a device after a long day of camp or having some downtime on a super-hot day, but remember everything is best in moderation.
Summer is a wonderful time for children to try new things, to discover, and explore. I hope your child gets an opportunity to do all of these things this summer. After all, doing this is what allows them to create lifetime memories. And while they are busy making those memories, we can be right beside them to relish it all, constantly making sure they are safe and loved.