“Youth Month: Help young South Africans take control of their personal safety”

June is Youth Month and provides an opportunity to celebrate, focus on and discuss all things youth-related including education, employment and lifestyle. It is prudent to highlight the efforts of the youth in South Africa and recognise the important role they play in building the nation.

“A very important topic that must also be addressed during this period is safety,” says Agnieszka Gryn, General Manager at Fidelity ADT’s Inland region. “Safety is a priority and must be top of mind for everyone, particularly teenagers and young adults who are especially vulnerable to crime. June might be a focus month, but ideally this is something we should focus on all year round.”

Safety is less about fear and always worrying about what might happen, but rather simply improving your awareness, and being aware of your surroundings and actions. By being more aware of your surroundings and the actions you take, you can mitigate the risks and improve your safety.

Streetwise teens know that they do not have to leave home for their safety to be at risk. Gryn says knowing and applying basic safety advice can show them that staying safe can be easy, improve their awareness and help them take control in challenging situations. To improve awareness it can take nothing more than putting your phone in your pocket and having your car keys ready before you walk outside to your car. On the other hand, if you are waiting on the sidewalk for a lift just keeping your phone out of sight so that you can see what is happening around you and you are not distracted by what is happening on your phone.

Social media and the internet

The internet has made communication faster and more fun; but combining this with smartphones it also makes it easier for predators to approach vulnerable teens. It is important that youngsters:

  • Never include personal information on social media forums, blogs or websites.
  • Checking in to places highlights to the world where you are, and you never know who is keeping tabs on you online.
  • Do not agree to meet online contacts in person.
  • Block anyone who makes you feel uneasy.
  • Think about the information you post online and do not post comments that could embarrass you or hurt and offend others. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind – if you would feel uncomfortable saying something to someone’s face and in person, then it is probably not a great idea to post that same comment on a social media platform.
  • Get the “OK” from your parents before you download content or shop online. Many items have copyright; and credit card details may be at risk when buying from an unsecure site.
  • Technology allows you to have a panic button and emergency response in your pocket almost anywhere, not just at home.

Staying safe while out on the town

Many young adults may find it is easy to lose track of time when you’re out having a good time with your friends. Following these tips will ensure that you can still have fun and get home safely:

  • Go out in a group and stick with your friends.
  • Keep an eye on your friends while you are out, and make sure your drinks are watched closely too.
  • Never go anywhere with, or accept a drink from, a stranger.
  • Tell your parents where you are going and keep to the agreed curfew.
  • Make sure you have a safe ride home with a designated driver.
  • Ensure your cell phone is always on and call home if you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. 
  • Ask your parents if their security company has a mobile panic app that can be downloaded onto your phone.
  • You can also request that a security officer meet you at your home when you arrive. Many security companies offer this as an additional service. 

If you are home alone

  • Make sure you know how the home alarm system works and what the passcodes are. Modern technology now also allows your parents or guardians to monitor or have access to the home alarm system via their cell phones, as an added security layer.
  • Ensure that you activate any outdoor detection devices or doors so that you can be alerted to anyone before they enter your home.
  • If you are home alone and the alarm is disarmed ensure that the security gates and outward-leading doors are locked.
  • Never allow anyone onto the property that does not have a bona fide reason to be there.
  • If your parents are away overnight, have the number of a neighbour or relative at hand in case of an emergency.
  • You can also activate you smart phone security app, so you have quick access to a panic system without having to go anywhere.
  • A good idea is also to have your security company install panic buttons in the bedrooms and where possible in the bathroom – criminals often hold people in these rooms while they ransack the home.
  • Never leave younger siblings home alone, even for a short time.
  • If anything makes you feel unsafe or uneasy, press the panic button and raise the alarm.
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