published Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Consumer Watch: Keep children safe on scariest night of year

By Ellen Phillips

Several readers have asked for a repeat of previous Halloween columns about child safety. These revised strategies from the original 2008 “scary” column helps to keep kids safe on the scariest night of the year, mostly compliments of Cathy Lewandowski, AT&T’s marketing director then and now.

First, this is a great time to give your young witches and goblins a cell phone, regardless if they normally use one or not. Activate old phones with a prepaid calling card and fully charge them before Count Dracula, Witchipoo, or your smallest Power Ranger start out their evening.

Program emergency numbers as a speed dial; the numbers also can be programmed as I-C-E (in case of emergency), which is a good idea for anyone’s phone at any time. Get in on the fun and accompany trick-or-treaters younger than age 12. Pin a piece of paper with your child’s name, address and phone number inside the child’s pocket in case you get separated.

Set ground rules. If your child will be trick-or-treating without you, establish a route and set a curfew. Review safety rules, including staying with the group, walking only on the sidewalk, approaching only clearly lit homes and never going inside a home. Encourage older kids to trick-or-treat with a group of friends, parents or older siblings. Make sure someone in the group carries a flashlight with fresh batteries. Encourage your older kids to stay close to home and tell them not to go door to door in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Also important, tell your children to call home immediately should they become separated from others in their group or feel uncomfortable within their surroundings. Be sure to be within earshot of your own phone.

Maintain contact information with chaperones. Trade phone numbers with all parents who’re with you and those who are with your kids. And establish regular check-in times for both younger and older party goers and/or trick-or-treaters.

Drive responsibly. Take advantage of hands-free options while using your phone in the car, especially with so many youngsters out crossing the streets. Be a wireless Samaritan. Keep a lookout for anything suspicious or out of place and, if you note such, instantly call law enforcement authorities.

And, finally, for the young and not-so-young, have a safe and enjoyable Halloween!

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer watch@timesfreepress.com.

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