- Pay attention to your surroundings, especially while walking in new neighborhoods.
- Don’t share personal information with strangers.
- Create a safety plan – just in case you need it.
You may have a new kind of freedom during your teen years. Your parent(s) or guardian(s) may give you more responsibilities and the chance to spend more time with your friends. You may find that you are in new or different social situations that are in unfamiliar neighborhoods. You now have the important job of making more decisions for yourself and keeping yourself safe while you are still having fun. If you forget about your safety, your fun can quickly turn into danger.
How do I keep myself safe at a party?
New social settings such as parties are a fun way for you to spend time with your friends. Most of the time parties are a safe way to hang out with your friends, but sometimes things can happen that can make a party a dangerous place to be. It’s important to think ahead and know what to do if a party gets out of control.
Here are some very important tips on how to stay safe at a party:
- Never leave a party with someone you don’t know very well. There will probably be people that you don’t know at a party. Stick with a group of your friends you know well. When you’re talking with new people, get to know them and decide whether or not you can trust them. It’s always safer to go home from the party with the friends you went to the party with!
- Never be alone with someone who has been drinking or taking drugs. Alcohol and drugs affect people differently, so someone that you know well could act very differently and be a threat to you.
- Always get your own drink. You should always get your own soda and open it for yourself. That way you know exactly what you’re drinking, and you can be sure that no one put any drugs or alcohol in your drink.
- Never put your drink down. It’s important that you always keep an eye and a hand on your soda, bottle of water, or cup. If you set the drink down or get it from someone else, then there’s a possibility that a person could put alcohol or a date-rape drug into your drink. These drugs dissolve (come apart) leaving no taste or color, so you wouldn’t even know if a person were trying to use them on you. The effects of these drugs are extremely dangerous and often lead to rape situations. If you do set your drink down and walk away, just go and get yourself another one and leave the first one on the table or pour it out.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. Taking drugs or drinking alcohol puts you at risk. You may be taken advantage of because your judgment will be impaired.
- Tell your parents and friends where you are going. It’s important that your family and friends know where you are. They may need to contact you, or, more importantly, you may need to contact them if you find yourself in an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.
- Never get in a car with someone who has been drinking. You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t drink and drive, but also never get into a car with someone who has been drinking. Drinking and driving puts your life in very serious danger, and it also puts other drivers on the road and other innocent people, such as children playing near the road, in danger too. Call your parents to pick you up or get home with someone who has NOT been drinking at all. Even one or two drinks can affect a person’s judgment, reaction time, and ability to drive safely.
What can I do to develop a safety plan for different social situations?
No matter what the situation is, you can develop a plan to help keep yourself safe. Read the following list and create your safety plan right now!
- Tell your parents where you’re going, who you’ll be with, and when you’ll be back.
- Carry a cell phone in case you need to make an emergency phone call. Don’t forget to keep emergency numbers and the phone number of a taxi service in your wallet or backpack, or program them into your cell phone.
- Stay in well-lit public places.
- Stick with another person or a group of your friends.
- Be aware of strangers. If you talk to them, don’t volunteer information about yourself.
- Pick code words with family and friends – words that you can say when you are concerned so that you can let your parents know over the phone that you are uncomfortable and want to be picked up from wherever you are. (Make sure you talk with your parents ahead of time so they know the signal – so when you call you can get picked up right away.)
What do I do if I am walking in an unfamiliar neighborhood?
There are certain things that you can do to keep yourself safe until you are near home. Here are some tips:
- Walk with another person whenever possible. There’s always safety and comfort in numbers, so the more the better. It’s important that you’re aware of your surroundings – look up and down the street on both sides and even behind you. Walk on the sidewalk of main streets and stay where it’s well lit. It’s better to watch and listen to what’s going on around you rather than talking on your cell phone, texting, or listening to music with earphones on. Walk quickly and confidently to your destination.
- Trust your feelings when you are walking in an unfamiliar neighborhood. If you’re worried that you are being followed, cross the street to see if the person does the same. Do not be afraid to start running if you need to – don’t wait until the person is very close to you to begin running. Go to the nearest store, restaurant, or police station.
- Don’t fight with someone who tries to take your belongings. If an unfamiliar person grabs your purse or bag, just let go and do NOT struggle with them. If you fight, you risk getting hurt. Money and other belongings can be replaced – your safety is the most important thing. Run in the opposite direction of the person and go to the nearest police station or business to call for help. Don’t forget to use your voice. Yelling for help is a sure way of getting the attention of people around you.
What do I do if I am out and someone that I don’t know comes up to me?
When you were younger, your parents probably taught you never to talk with strangers. This is a good rule for children, but in your teenage years that rule doesn’t always seem to fit. There are lots of times when it is necessary to talk to someone whom you don’t know. Most strangers turn out to be nice people, but it’s important that you don’t trust everyone that you meet right away.
Know the warning signs and how to protect yourself:
- Be aware of anyone in a car who stops to talk to you or ask you for directions if you are walking down the street, even if you are in a familiar neighborhood. Try to keep your distance from the car and never offer to get in the car even if it sounds like the stranger is going in the same direction that you are headed. For example: Don’t get in a car if a stranger tells you that there is some kind of family emergency at home. You can make up code words with your family that they can use if there is a true emergency at home.
- Be confident. If a person that you don’t know comes up to you to start a conversation, you don’t have to talk to them if you don’t feel comfortable. Don’t be afraid to sound rude if someone keeps bothering you. Stay calm and firmly and loudly say “NO”. Remember that “NO” is a complete sentence – you don’t have to explain yourself to someone that you don’t know. If you don’t want to talk to someone, don’t do it.
- Be street smart. Not all dangerous strangers are rude or forceful when you first meet them. It’s important that you are aware of strangers, both men and women, who seem charming – the ones who make conversation and get important information about you without you even realizing it. Remember that you don’t have to share any information, especially important details about yourself if you don’t want to. For example, just because a stranger tells you where they live, it doesn’t mean that you have to tell them where you live. Don’t volunteer unnecessary information about your plans or even your full name. Remain in public where you are comfortable and surrounded by other people. You should never go off alone with someone you don’t know.
- Be careful who you trust. Keep your distance from a new person until you’ve had the chance to learn about them. Don’t trust someone who follows you around or won’t leave you alone even after being asked. Pay attention to how the stranger acts when they are around other people – see if they seem comfortable and continue acting normally even in the presence of security guards, store or restaurant employees, or other adults. If you’re worried or nervous, you can go to police officer(s) or to security guard(s). You will also find people who may be able to help you at information desks and customer service desks at public places such as the mall, and also restaurant or store managers.
- Be prepared. Check out self-defense classes in your city or town. Your local police department or school might offer classes that can teach you how to protect yourself and how to handle uncomfortable situations. Thinking ahead and planning for your safety is a way to feel powerful and confident!