It can be an incredibly daunting idea, sending a teenager off to a world where you have little input in their lives. This tends to strike particularly true when parents start to consider how safe their child is at university, especially when thinking about a new social scene with drinking and lots of new friends you’ve never met (remember when all your kids’ parents were stored in your phone?) Hopefully, this guide to staying safe at university, and how to talk about safety at university with your teenagers will put your mind at ease, and reassure you that it might not be as scary as you think!
Featured post by Maddie Wills, who is a student at university.
Safety devices to keep you safe at university
There are so many devices and apps that you might want to encourage your teenager to consider. This means you can send them off for uni equipped for safety!
How to avoid spiking
It’s normal to worry that your child’s drink may be spiked when they’re socialising away from home. The TASAdot anti-spiking app comes well-recommended, and means that whilst spiking at universities is unfortunately quite common, students are able to access help should they need it. The app has the ability to send emergency messages to friends, gives information on how to protect against spiking, and can report a suspected spiking. It can also give information regarding the nearest police station and hospital. The thought of your vulnerable teenager becoming a victim of spiking is every parent’s worst nightmare, but at least this app can give some peace of mind that there are safety measures in place.
Safety on the streets
A personal safety alarm could be a good buy in order to stay safe at university; it could deter a would-be attacker. Having one of these on my keychain does give me some reassurance that if I were in an unsafe situation at university, I would be able to alert others quickly. The Ashley Alarm comes incredibly well recommended by other parents.
When it comes to getting home from nights out, it’s important to always keep personal safety in mind. I would encourage your teenager to make sure they have the Uber app installed on their phone, and make sure their phone is charged before leaving for a night out. At least this ensures that they always have a way to get back to their accommodation if the worst comes to worst.
Whilst we are always told never to walk home alone, it does happen. People want to leave the club early, or stay longer and inevitably, teenagers take risks. The staff at Strut Safe have set up a helpline at 0333 335 0026, where you can ring, and a volunteer will keep you company over the phone until you are safely through your door.
Of course, ideally you’d like your child to heed all of your warnings and never put themselves in danger, but it happens. Encouraging your teenager to have some or all of these measures in place before they start at university can give both of you some peace of mind that they are equipped for success regarding safety at university.
Help available from the University
A lot of universities have measures in place to make sure students can stay safe. The majority of student accommodation has a front desk that is available 24/7, and you can call them if you are particularly concerned about the safety of your student. Speaking from personal experience, when my mum was worried about my blood sugar after a night out (I’m a type 1 diabetic and alcohol does strange things to alcohol), she rang the front desk and a very lovely member of staff knocked on my door to check I was alright.
Additionally, it’s worth considering that at university, there is definitely a sense of safety in numbers. A big student population is worth keeping in mind; it’s likely that your teenager will be around students the majority of the time. Whilst I won’t try and suggest that this offers optimum safety, it is likely (speaking from experience) that, were your student separated from friends on a night out or suchlike, they would be able to latch onto a group of students with common experiences and a friendly desire to keep another student safe.
Staying safe when clubbing
If your teenager is likely to be going out to pubs and clubs at university, it is worth considering that there are specific safety precautions for a night out. The most important of these is never to leave a club alone. Always try and round up some friends to leave with you (even better if you live close to each other) so that you’re not making your way home alone. This informs my next piece of advice; during Freshers week, try and make some friends before you go out for the first time. These don’t have to be your best friends for all eternity, but it’s worth having some people who will be willing to help you get home and vice versa if needed.
It is also worth having a conversation with your teenager about safety at university regarding drinking itself. Make sure never to drink on an empty stomach, as you can get much drunker than you realise. Also, be incredibly careful with buying drinks in clubs. Although this doesn’t offer total protection from spiking (needle spiking is on the rise), it can reduce your chances of being spiked. Never take your eyes off your drink, and be incredibly careful about accepting drinks bought for you. The way most university students approach club drinking is by pre-drinking at their accommodation, and then not purchasing anything in the club to avoid spiking and unnecessary expense.
On the flip side, if your teenager is really worried about safety in clubs, or just doesn’t enjoy the ambience, don’t despair. You don’t have to drink at university to fit in, and there will be others who feel the same way as you. Trying different societies is a great way to make friends and find these people!
How can parents help practically with safety at university?
If you’re willing, it could be a great help to put your credit card onto your teenager’s Uber account (granted, you have to trust them not to abuse it!). This means that if they are in a desperate situation safety-wise, they won’t worry about the cost of an Uber home, and will be safe. When using Uber, it is always recommended to share the journey with a friend or trusted adult. Uber is generally considered to be quite safe, but it’s always worth letting a friend know you’re getting into an Uber.
iPhone also has a feature where your phone can automatically call emergency services and alert your emergency contacts if you’re in an unsafe situation. Depending on the model of your phone, you either hold down the volume and power button or press the power button 5 times to enable this. Encourage your teenager to list you as an emergency contact, just in case.
Parents are more divided on the benefit of location sharing (some see it as too overbearing, and it can also increase paranoia about where a student is). I’ve chosen to include it in this guide as my mum finds it useful for peace of mind. If you share your location, then your parents can double-check that you’re not unsafe if they wake up in a panic. My mum also uses it when she is considering ringing the university front desk as if she can see that if I’m not at home, they would be of very little help.
General personal safety tips for teenagers
When discussing keeping safe at university, it is worth remembering general personal safety tips as well as university-specific ones. Be careful with what possessions you have on display, and make sure you are staying alert when walking, especially as it starts to get darker. If you wear headphones whilst walking, keep the volume low or only listen in one ear, so you can still hear what’s going on around you.
Another thing that could set your mind at ease when sending a teenager off to university is a self-defence class. I did a martial arts self-defence course a few months before I went off to university, and it gave me a lot more confidence that I could help to keep myself safe at university if I needed to.
Hopefully, this short guide to personal safety at university has given you some ideas for how to talk to teenagers about staying safe and has perhaps reassured you that safety at university is not as daunting as it seems to be.