Today I’m sharing ten safety tips for teens that all parents should make sure their teenagers know.
I think we all worry about keeping teens safe when they’re out with friends.
My teenager is starting to go out at night with her friends. She’s happy to take a train or bus to meet friends in other nearby towns. At the end of the night she’d rather punch herself in the face than get picked up from an event by an elderly embarrassing person like me.
I’m happy that Flea is becoming more independent. But it’s a new phase and we’re both learning as we go. Flea hasn’t had the time to become streetwise. She’s unsure what to do when things go wrong (as they sometimes do), and I want her to feel confident, and to stay safe. Above all, I want her to know when it’s okay to call for help.
Safety Tips for Teens When Things go Wrong
We’ve had a few minor panics on nights out this year.
There was the time someone had too much alcohol and needed to go to A&E after a house party. Another time, one girl was left on her own, after her friend hooked up with someone. We even had an incident where there was a falling out and Flea came home in tears.
The upside is these are all learning experiences and something we need to go through. Flea needs to learn this stuff before she’s living on her own at university. But if someone is hurt, or upset, or influenced by drugs or alcohol, there’s a risk things could get dangerous. So what safety tips for teens can we share?
Here’s an important one to start with. The golden rule, if you like.
About a month ago, Flea had gone for a night out with a friend in a nearby town. It was a little after 10pm when I got the call, “Mum, can you come and get me?”
And the first thing to say here is that no matter how frustrating, or inconvenient, I will always try and start these calls by replying, “Of course. I’m glad you called.”
The “no matter what” rule
I’ve always told Flea the rule in our house is simple. No matter how many men you killed, or cars you set fire to, or bottles of vodka you downed – you can call, and I will come and get you. Nothing matters more than you (and your friends) being safe. I think this is the most important safety tip for teens and their parents.
So when Flea rings me and she’s late or she’s messed up, I’ll do my best to say, “I appreciate you calling me. Tell me what you need.”
Maybe on the inside, I’m panicking. There’s nothing worse than your child being afraid or hurt, on their own. In this case, Flea was also 30 miles away, with no idea where she was. I jumped in the car and did the mum-rescue thing, and everything was fine.
The next day, I took the opportunity to remind Flea of some safety tips for teens that she and her friends – can use to keep themselves safe on a night out. In case they help you, here are 10 teen safety tips that could help keep your kids safe:
10 safety tips for teens to stay safe on a night out
No teen left behind
This safety tip for young people is dead simple. If you go out in a group of three, you end the night in a group of three. Nobody gets left behind at a pub or Pizza Express. Nobody is allowed to wander off in a huff, nobody leaves with anyone they don’t know well. Especially if that person isn’t in a fit state to make good choices about personal safety.
Even if someone is really irritating or you fall out, you don’t leave them alone. We recently had a situation where Flea was out with a friend who told her to “keep walking” when they popped into a bar to use the bathroom. Flea duly kept walking and the friend panicked when they came out of the toilets and realised they had no idea where Flea had gone.
Lessons were learned.
Lights, people, CCTV
Sometimes, through no fault of your own, you’ll find yourself somewhere on your own. Maybe a friend met a guy and ditched you in town, or your mates got picked up, and your Mum is running late.
In this situation, look for three things that are going to make you feel safer: lights, people, CCTV.
I tend to suggest looking for things like a local Tesco, the train station ticket office, or a cab office – anywhere with passing traffic, bright lights and CCTV. Bad things tend not to happen when lots of people can see you easily. It also makes it easier for your Mum to spot you if they’re driving to pick you up.
Emergency phone charging
What happens when your phone dies and you can’t call for a lift?
My advice? Go to the nearest McDonalds or Starbucks.
Both these places have wireless charging pads that will give you enough juice to make a call or buy a train ticket or something else helpful. If you really can’t charge your phone, dial 100 from a payphone to make a reverse-charge call. Sidenote: make sure your kids actually *know* your mobile number and to dial 100 from a payphone.
Make sure you drop a pin
Sometimes teens find themselves in an area they’re not familiar with, without a convenient street or shop sign. Or maybe they’re in a park, rather than on a street.
Make sure your teens know how to drop and share a pin on Google or Apple maps, so you can find them even if they’re stuck in the middle of nowhere or on a really, really long road. Another good option is the What 3 Words app. This is a clever piece of technology that assigns a code word to every 3 metre square in the UK. If teens open the app, they’ll get a unique code that tells someone else using the app EXACTLY where they are, to within three metres.
Set calls to bypass “do not disturb”
My phone tends to go onto Do Not Disturb from midnight to 7am, but I have a bypass set, so that if Flea calls during downtime, the phone will still ring, audibly. To do this on your phone:
- Open contacts
- Select the entry for the person you want to bypass DND
- Click the edit button in the top right corner
- Scroll down to ringtone and tap
- Toggle “emergency bypass” to ON, so calls from that person will always get through.
This ensures you’ll never miss an emergency phone call late at night, or if you’re in a meeting.
Teach teens safe(r) cab etiquette
I know that cab drivers aren’t always 100% safe, but they’re generally a better option than a teen trying to walk home alone.
There are two elements to my Safety Tips for Teens about cabs. First, Flea knows that if she is ever stuck, she can take a cab and we will pay for it when she gets home. I leave cash on the hallway table specifically for this reason. If she’s in a city and can use Uber, it bills straight to my card.
Second, she knows to always book a cab through an app, ideally in advance. This means you know the exact car, driver name and registration number of your cab, and won’t get into a car that you don’t know, where there’s no record of you having been in the vehicle.
Everyone is welcome
When I was a teen, my Mum always made it clear that if a friend had nowhere to go at the end of the night, they could stay with us. So there were regularly people who had missed trains, got locked out or run away from home on my bedroom floor on Sunday mornings.
Any of Flea’s friends are welcome to come home with her if they need a safe place to sleep over. I generally try to check that someone knows where they are, and I like to meet them and know their name but apart from that I don’t get too involved.
I just tell Flea – never leave someone alone who is drunk or under the influence of drugs or unsafe. if they’re scared to go home, you can bring them here, and we’ll take care of them. I can take them home if needed. This is probably number one on my safety tips for teens list – and I hope it’s on yours, too!
Help teens get emergency cash
My 16yo has her own debit card, but if she’s run out of money we have a couple of options that mean she can access emergency money. Firstly, the most old school – whenever Flea goes out, I make sure she has the emergency £20 tucked into her purse, and some money in her own bank account.
But what happens when Flea has accidentally *cough* spent all that cash on Aperol Spritz at the local cocktail bar, and realises she can’t get home? Here are a couple of helpful teen safety tips:
First, I have a PayPal business account. This means I am allowed to share the log-in with others, so Flea can use my PayPal account in an emergency, whether it’s sending a friend money, buying a train ticket or booking a cab on Uber.
Second, I have a bank card that I’ve added to Flea’s phone Apple Pay. It is an old card linked to a defunct saving account that contains under £100. But Flea knows if she’s ever stuck, she can use it. She also knows if she spends it on McDonald’s, I will shave her head while she’s sleeping and disco dance at her school gate for the rest of time.
Tell someone where you are
One of the more challenging rules that we’re still working on (being honest) is Flea remembering to always tell me where she is going, and when she’ll be back.
The difficulties tend to arise when plans change. So Flea *told* me they were off to Pizza Express for food, but then they decided to go and drink at the pub, or walk down to the beach for sunset and she just never thought about telling me that.
With this in mind, one of my safety tips for teens is that I try to tell Flea that giving me a quick call, or texting a friend, or even updating social media all work – just so long as someone knows where you’re headed and when you expect to leave.
If all else fails, Life 360
Because teens are imperfect and are learning as they go, mistakes WILL happen. As well as providing teens with the reassurance that we know they’re learning and we’re here to help, parents can use technology.
If you have iPhones, you’ll know that you can use “Find my iPhone” to track your family’s location.
If you want a more sophisticated version then for £4.99 a month Life360 gives you real-time access to your child’s location. Not only can you see where they are, you can see what speed they’re moving at (useful if they’re driving), and what battery life their phone has left. Using Life360 is one of my favourite Safety Tips for Teens.
I like that Life360 can set locations and alert you if your child arrives at, or leaves a location. I use this to know my daughter has arrived at school each day – she has to catch two trains, so it’s good to get an alert to say “she’s just arrived at school!” or “She’s leaving the gym”.
I think it’s important to use Life360 respectfully – make sure your child knows why you’re using it, and what you will be tracking, versus what you won’t. Everyone deserves a little privacy!
I hope you find these tips to keep teens safe on nights out helpful – let me know if you have other safety tips for teens, in the comments!