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Summer Days and Nights Full of Dangers for Teens

Summer Days and Nights Full of Dangers for Teens 

(CA.ARA) - No school, lax rules, restlessness and adventurous activities combine to make summer a magical, memorable -- and dangerous -- time for youth. While younger children are typically supervised, adolescents are usually on their own. The Canadian Red Cross is reminding parents to think about prevention and set some groundrules before turning their teens loose this summer.

“The freedom that summer represents can be exhilarating for young people, but it can also lead to unsafe situations. Adolescents crave excitement and autonomy, but they also need limits -- even if they argue they don’t,” explains Judi Fairholm, manager of RespectED, the Red Cross program that offers violence and abuse prevention education to help keep young people safer.

Parents typically know how to protect their kids from obvious summer dangers, like sunburn, bug bites and poison ivy, but other less apparent threats are just as preventable.

* Stranger Danger
Unscheduled, unsupervised days leave youth at greater risk from predators, either online or in person. Attractive promises can entice youth into risky situations.

Often these adults offer to take them camping, or give them a place to party or a pool to swim in; drugs and alcohol may be an enticement. The experience and the relationship can make youth vulnerable. “These adults or older adolescents gain the trust of their teen ‘friends,’ and then sexually assault the youth,” says Fairholm.

“Awareness is the first line of defense. Adolescents are old enough to fully understand the danger that predators pose, and need to be told that it is not usual or healthy for older people to want to hang out with young friends.”

Fairholm says it’s critical that parents let their kids know they should never agree to meet someone they’ve chatted with online, and that they should say ‘no’ to luring offers -- even if it feels like they’re hurting someone’s feelings. “Open dialogue is important. Youth need to know they can tell their parents about such offers.”

* Dating Violence
Violence between peers, including dating violence and sexual assault, is another potential problem. Recent studies suggest as many as 25 percent of teens will experience violence in a dating relationship before they reach adulthood.

Unsupervised open-air parties provide a warm and romantic setting, but things can quickly become too hot to handle, especially when drinking or drugs are in the mix. “As a parent, you have to ensure your daughter or son knows everyone has rights and responsibilities in a relationship -- that they have the right to establish boundaries and expect respect, that they have a right to refuse any sexual activity, and that they have the responsibility to always respect the limits another person sets,” says Fairholm.

Alcohol and drugs significantly increase risk. “We know that 74 percent of males and 55 percent of females involved in acquaintance rapes had been drinking or taking drugs just before the attack,” adds Fairholm.

Youth should be taught to develop a safety plan: always attend gatherings with trusted friends, designate someone who will remain sober and drug-free throughout, stay with the group and don’t go off alone with a suitor, and have a plan to call for help immediately if things start to get out of hand. “Most importantly, friends need to take care of one another, and everybody must listen to their instincts and heed the earliest warning signs.”

* Drowning Prevention
Alcohol use can also spark tragedy in and on the water. According to an analysis of a decade of drownings recently published by Canadian Red Cross, alcohol continues to play a critical role. From 1991 to 2000, it was involved in at least 30 percent of drownings among 15 to 24 year-olds. “Drinking and water activities don’t mix. That message needs to be emphasized over and over again to young people,” says Sue Phillips, national injury prevention manager for Canadian Red Cross.

Phillips also says adolescent adventure contributes to tragedy in the water. She notes that young men, in particular, are at risk of drowning because they tend to be risk takers. “Most Canadian drownings happen in rivers, lakes and oceans, where currents can play a role. Adolescent males have a sense of infallibility and may overestimate their swimming ability.” Whatever the reason, the statistics are chilling: 220 young men aged 15 to 24 drowned while swimming during the decade studied.

* Boating
Boating, which accounted for 43 percent of drowning deaths over a decade, is another activity where prevention can greatly diminish risk. “Drowning victims are almost never wearing a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD). Everyone in a boat should wear one, all the time,” Phillips says, noting that it’s essential to check for proper fit. “Remember that adolescents are growing fast. The PFD that fit them last summer may no longer be appropriate.”

With some awareness and forethought, those lazy days of summer can be free from injury and tragedy, and offer teens great memories for decades to come.

Courtesy of ARA Content

Summer Safety Checklist for Parents of Teens

You can’t follow your teenagers around all day and night, but the Canadian Red Cross says you can help keep them safe with a little forethought.

Ask yourself the following questions: Do you know where they are, who they’re with, and generally what their plans are for the day/night? Are they hanging around with their own age group? Do they feel safe with these friends? Ask these questions consistently, and keep the lines of communication open.

Have you scheduled “check in times” and curfews, especially for younger teens? These help provide structure -- and alert you to problems earlier. Have you helped plan activities to keep them busy? Boredom and restlessness can lead to risk-taking and carelessness.

Have you provided the tools to prevent sunburns? Buy your kids each a large bottle of sunscreen -- let them pick the scent and they’re more likely to use it. Remind them every day to use it. Insist no one leave the house without applying that first coat, and tell them to reapply every few hours, especially after swimming or sweating.

Did you teach youth that alcohol and water don’t mix -- and set a good example? Don’t drink near the water, or if you’re planning on swimming or boating. Do you insist everyone in a boat wear a personal flotation device that fits properly? If your youth are going away with a friend’s family, have you talked to the parents about their PFD policy?

Have you equipped your youth with the necessary safety education? The Red Cross offers the following classes:

* First Aid for all ages, as well as babysitting courses
* On Board for young boaters, who must have a Pleasure Craft Operator Card to operate a boat
* Red Cross Swimming and Water Safety lessons
*What’s Love Got To Do With It? -- relationship violence prevention for youth
*Beyond the Hurt -- prevention of bullying and harassment for youth.

Visit the Canadian Red Cross Web site: to learn more about safety and safety training, or call your local Red Cross office for more information.

Courtesy of ARA Content


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