How to Keep Your Student Safe in Off-Campus Housing
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By: Elana Goodwin, Uloop
Whether your student lives in a dorm or off campus, safety is always a big concern, especially for parents. College campuses and their surrounding areas typically see a fair amount of crime, which is even more worrisome when your student lives in off-campus housing and has that much further to go to get home.
With that in mind, here’s how to keep your student safe in off-campus housing.
1. Put In An Alarm
A great way to deter burglars and promote a sense of safety in your student’s off-campus home is to put in some sort of security system. Of course, the property’s landlord has to be amenable to this, so you and your student will want to talk about this possibility with them first.
If the landlord doesn’t want to put in an alarm, another option that may help increase safety is to simply put a sign advertising an alarm system on the door, a window, or on a sign in the front yard. While having an actual alarm would be safer, if a burglar thinks that your student’s home has a security system, they’ll be that much less likely to try to break in.
2. Lock Up
Remind your student to always lock up their home. Any and every window and door in the home should be kept locked when your student and/or their roommates are out and the door should also be locked behind each inhabitant when they return home. Even if someone is home during the day, the doors should be locked. Unless a person is in the room, windows should also typically stay locked, especially if they’re on the ground floor or could be accessible from the outside.
3. Light It Up
Leaving a light on somewhere inside the apartment or house when your student leaves is another smart safety technique since it’ll make it seem as if someone is still inside the home. Additionally, if your student or one of their roommates is going to be walking home at night, make sure to leave an outside light on so they can more easily navigate and unlock the door.
4. Be Smart
Another way your student can remain safe in off-campus housing is by simply being smart. While it may seem counter-intuitive to your student to not post on social media where they are or what they’re doing, they should consider curtailing that habit, or at least limiting who on social media can see their posts. When they advertise on social media where they are and that they’ve left their home, it gives potential burglars inside information about whether their home is unoccupied.
Additionally, posting pictures of a location or with a group of friends while they’re away from home tells people who can see the picture that they’re not home. Advise your student to wait until they are home to post a picture or tweet about where they were or making it so only trusted friends can see their posts.
Lastly, a spare key should never be kept outside of their home. It’s better to get locked out or have to knock to be let in than having an intruder find an easy way to get in. Rather than stashing a spare key outside, leave it with a friend or neighbor.
5. Use the Buddy System
If your student is going to be on campus until late or will be coming home from somewhere in the dark, make sure they use the buddy system. Whenever possible at night, they should try to go places with a friend so they don’t have to walk alone. If they’re coming back from class, work, or some other activity by themselves, they should let their roommate know where they’re leaving from and an approximate timeframe within which they’ll be home, so someone knows their whereabouts and is expecting them.
Some campuses actually have a walking group program that allows students to call and get accompanied home by student volunteers in the program so they don’t have to walk by themselves in the dark.
6. Stay Aware
Whenever and wherever they’re walking, advise your student to remain aware, especially at night. They shouldn’t walk with earbuds in or look down to text while walking alone in the dark. Instead, they should be alert and walk with purpose, and make sure to take direct but safe well-lit routes. They should also walk with their keys already out so they can enter their home more quickly and so their keys could be used as a weapon if necessary.
If your student does feel unsafe walking by themselves and they have to do it fairly often, look into some self-protection items like pepper spray or a rape whistle to make them feel more secure and provide them with a way to keep themselves safe.
As a parent, you’re always going to worry about your student — but these are just some of the many ways you can help keep your student safe when they’re living in off-campus housing so you can worry just a little bit less.
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