published Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Baumgardner: Make sure your kids are safe this summer

By Julie Baumgardner

The end of the school year brings a giant exhale from parents and children as they anticipate the slower pace of summer.

With all the fun that summer has to offer, parents still must be on their toes when it comes to keeping children safe. Whether they are home alone, playing sports, swimming at the pool or lake, surfing the net or just hanging with friends, there are many opportunities to get in harm's way.

According to the National Safe Kids campaign, nearly half of all injury-related childhood deaths occur between May and August, with July the most dangerous month. Unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for children 14 and younger.

Children will be taken to hospital emergency rooms nearly 3 million times during summer for serious injuries. Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children ages 1-4 than any other cause except birth defects. Two to three children die every day as a result of drowning.

Older children experience the greatest increase in unintentional injury-related deaths, primarily because children ages 10-14 engage in riskier behavior and are often given more freedom by their parents.

It can be a real balancing act letting children "do their thing" while keeping them safe. Many parents remember roaming the woods on a summer's day, building forts, endless games of nighttime hide and seek and tag where boundaries were the entire neighborhood and safety wasn't a big issue. But things have changed. How do parents keep safety in mind while ensuring that children get to be children?

Here are some tips from experts.

• Before leaving your child home alone, make sure he is mature enough to handle this responsibility. Does he know the house rules, and can he be trusted to follow them? Does your child know how to seek help in an emergency? Can she solve problems by herself? What will she do while home alone?

• Insist that your child wear appropriate protective gear when riding a bike, skateboard, etc. Teach your child the rules of the road, and make sure they follow them.

• Make sure your child has been taught to swim and insist that he wear a personal flotation device when near water.

• Limit the time your child can spend on the computer, and be clear about your rules for use of all electronics.

• Children 14 and younger should never be allowed to operate a personal watercraft.

• If you do not know how to swim, consider enrolling in a swim class.

• Learn CPR and first aid.

• Keep children away from hot outdoor grills.

• Never leave children in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked.

• Instead of shooting off fireworks at home, attend fireworks displays.

• Don't let your child walk alone at night.

• Make sure your children are well supervised, even when playing in the neighborhood.

Don't be lulled into a false sense of security. Be alert. Avoid distractions. Many accidents that occur during summer months are preventable with appropriate supervision.

Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at julieb@firstthings.org.

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