Whether you have a toddler or a teenager, back-to-school is an important time to teach your child about staying safe while they are away from you. Everything from traffic to playgrounds and stranger danger, becomes an issue during school days, but you don't have to be paranoid. Instead, just be prepared--and make sure your kiddos are too! Here are seven tips to make sure they're protected before, during and after school:


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Program cell phones. Before your kids head off for their first day of school, program 911, your number and another safe adult's number into speed dial on their phones. Then teach them how to use it. Even very young students can be sent off to school, with an emergency phone that can only call specific numbers.

Have an emergency route.  If your children walk, bike or scoot to school, help them plan a safe emergency route. Instruct them to switch to this route if they feel they are being watched or followed. Even if it is out of the way, it will throw predators and bullies off their trail. It's a good idea to have them call you if they take the alternate route, so you will know where they are, and can meet them if necessary.

Travel in packs. It's always safer to travel in groups rather than solo. If your child's classmates don't live nearby, talk to parents of the other kids in your neighborhood to make arrangements or recruit/pay a trustworthy teen to escort younger kids to school.

Be observant. Don't turn your kids into worriers, but teach them the importance of being aware of their surroundings, so that they can pick up on anything that is abnormal and alert an adult. And whenever you are at your child's school, make sure you scan for anything or anyone suspicous or out of the ordinary as well.

Handle bullying. Be open with your kids about bullying. Obviously, you want to teach them not to bully others, but you should also teach them some tactics for dealing with bullies. Pick up a book or check out some sites (like this government one) that can help you equip your kids with tools that will help them avoid or deter bullies.

Prepare contact info. If your kids are old enough to memorize your address and phone number, make sure they do. If not, you should write all of your contact information down and secure it somewhere in their backpack. Make sure they know where to look for it.

Practice Internet safety. For years children have been accessing the Internet at school on a daily basis--it's an excellent learning tool. But there are dangers associated with it. Schools, have safety precautions in place, but your kids need to know that everything they do on the Internet is being saved somewhere, and that it's mportant not to share identifying information or access inappropriate content. Teach them to use these resources responsibly, regardless of how young they are.

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