Safety Awareness for Teens

June is National Safety Month! Injuries are a leading cause of disability for people of all ages – and they are the leading cause of death for children and teenagers. But there are many things parents can do to help their teens stay safe and prevent injuries. Here are a few tips:

Injury Prevention

Protective Gear. When teens are active in sports and recreation, make sure they use the right protective gear for their activity, such as helmets, wrist guards, knee or elbow pads. Youth need protective gear whether they are playing a team sport, riding a bike, skateboarding, or taking part in other recreational interests.

Correct Use of Gear. Be sure that your teen’s protective equipment is in good condition, fits appropriately and is worn correctly all the time. Avoid missing or broken buckles, old or damaged gear, compressed or worn padding, helmets that have already been in a fall, and/or poorly fitting equipment.

Action Plan. Be sure your child’s sports program or school teaches the youth ways to lower injuries. For example, your son’s football team should provide information on how the athletes can reduce their chances of getting a concussion, as well as the signs, symptoms, and treatment for a concussion.

Keep Cool. Ensure teen athletes stay hydrated in hot weather. Coaches should allow time for teens to gradually adjust to hot or humid environments to prevent heat-related injuries or illness.

Role Model. You must always communicate positive safety messages and serve as a model of safe behavior by wearing a helmet and following the rules.

Transportation Safety

If your child is not yet driving, then the absolute most important thing you can do is set a good example:

  • Always buckle your seat belt when you drive or ride in a car, and insist that your passengers buckle up as well.
  • Require children age 12 and under to ride in the back seat.
  • Never drive after drinking alcohol or using drugs.
  • Follow the speed limit and keep a safe distance between your car and the cars ahead of you.
  • Never drive while distracted, which includes eating, looking at your cellphone, putting on makeup, looking at maps, and reading or sending texts.

Performing other activities while driving increases your chance of crashing. Almost 1 in 5 crashes (17%) that injured someone involved distracted driving. Drivers are more than three times more likely to get in a car accident while reaching for something in their car and 23 times more likely to crash while texting.

If you’re a parent of a teen who is learning to drive, consider signing the CDC’s Parent-Teen Driving Agreement with your teen to limit risky driving situations. The best way you to ensure your teen makes smart decisions when they get behind the wheel is to have regular conversations about safety, practice driving together, and lead by example. You can also review our previous blog, 8 Tips to Teach Your Teen to Drive.

Water Safety

Drowning ranks fifth among the leading causes of unintentional injury death in the United States. Reasons for teens drowning include:

  • Life jackets are not being worn. Surveys show that only 50% of adolescents and 22% of adults wear a life jacket while in a boat. When adults wear a life jacket in a boat, teens are significantly more likely to wear one too.
  • Many youth have never learned how to swim.
  • Young people may not be aware of water risks and safety measures.
  • A swimmer’s strength is overpowered by water conditions (i.e., current, rip tide, cold water, depth and objects in water).
  • Teens and young adults may have inadequate skills to judge water conditions and/or their swimming or boating ability.
  • Sometimes alcohol or drugs are being used while swimming or boating.

The most important thing you can do to protect your teen is ensure they know how to swim and discuss water safety with them.

Fire Safety

Your teenager has probably not heard the basics of fire safety since elementary school. It’s a good idea to discuss a fire escape plan for everyone to get out of your home quickly in an emergency. The plan should include a safe meeting place for everyone to go to that is away from the house, such as your mailbox.

In addition, make sure you install a smoke alarm on every floor of your home (including the basement) and near where people sleep.  Use long-life smoke alarms if possible, which last longer than regular smoke alarms and have a “hush button” so you can stop the alarm quickly if there’s a false alarm. If you use regular smoke alarms, replace the batteries every year. Replace your smoke alarm if it’s more than 10 years old.

Gun Safety

More than 44% of households in the United States now own a gun. Even if you don’t own a gun, your teen could visit the home of a friend whose family does. A recent study by the Children’s National Hospital showed:

  • 20,000 children and youth visit the ER every year for firearm-related injuries
  • 40% of parents erroneously believe that their children are unaware of where weapons are stored in the home
  • 22% of parents erroneously believe their children have never handled the household firearm

To prevent accidents or firearm injury, experts recommend that parents keep firearms in a safe or other locked box, keep ammunition in a different area than the firearm, and talk to your teen about gun safety.

Chemical Safety

Every day in the United States, 2,500 youth (12 to 17 years old) abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time. CDC also reports that total opioid overdose deaths have nearly quadrupled since 2000. Teens are also quite creative in their methods for getting high, such as drinking over-the-counter cough syrup or hand sanitizer and inhaling common household products like paint thinner or rubber cement.

Here are a few steps you can take to help prevent abuse of substances and prescriptions:

  • Talk to your teen. Teens need ongoing education about the dangers of abusing drugs, alcohol, prescriptions and medicines, and common household chemical products.
  • Role model healthy prescription use. Make it clear that everyone should only take medications prescribed to them and discuss the importance of taking medication according to the prescription label, and then, follow through on your words. That means you should not give your friend, who has insomnia, one of your prescription sleep aids, or give your relative with a hurt back one of your prescription pain killers.
  • Store medicine safely. If anyone in your household is prescribed a medication that is commonly abused, keep it locked up. This simply removes the temptation that any teen – yours or your teen’s friends that visit – might feel.
  • Teach healthy coping mechanisms. Teens are vulnerable to trying to get high when they are stressed out. Be proactive and teach your child healthy coping skills, such as those identified in our earlier blog Developing Coping Skills in Teens.
  • Seek professional help for mental health problems. Teens who are struggling with mental health issues, like an anxiety disorder or depression, are also vulnerable to turn to prescriptions for help. If you suspect your teen has a mental health issue, seek professional help immediately.

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