By the HELP Committee
and Havre Public Schools
Nice weather and the start of outdoor fun give us all a chance to be more active, especially children. In the spring and summer months, kids spend a lot of time riding bicycles, swimming, boating, walking around and riding in cars. Most parents would agree that when kids get more active, it becomes more important for them to wear bike helmets, life jackets and seat belts, and to walk safely. But most parents aren't showing kids how to do these things.
Adults need to be role models for safe behavior during their own activities, and not just tell kids what to do. We all know that kids tend to copy what adults around them do, and it's no different with safety behaviors. The old saying "watch and learn" is a great thing for adults to remember when it comes to safety. If parents and other adults wear their seat belts, kids are likely to do the same. When parents wear their bike helmets, they show kids that it's the right thing to do.
April 30 to May 7 is National Safe Kids Week, and the theme this year is "Follow the leader: Safety starts with you."
Even though most parents say that being safe is important, they take the "do as I say, not as I do" approach. Many parents don't wear life jackets or bicycle helmets. A lot of parents don't cross streets at crosswalks or intersections. But these same parents want their children to follow safety rules. Kids look to their parents and other adults to learn how to do the right thing, and parents must set the right example with both their actions and their words.
When kids do see their parents practicing safe behaviors, they are likely to follow suit. A good example is seat belt use. Most adults wear their seat belts every time they get into a car, and kids do the same. If parents would be as diligent about bike helmets, life jackets and crossing at intersections, we could drastically reduce the number of unnecessary injuries to kids.
Unintentional injury is the No. 1 killer of kids ages 14 and under. But we can help change that by being role models of safe behavior for our kids. Parents, whenever you ride in a car, mount a bike, board a boat or take a walk, remember that safety starts with you.
Children with parents who tend to use safety devices appear more likely to use safety devices themselves.
Eighty-six percent of parents report always using seat belts when riding in cars, and 91 percent of children report doing the same. In Havre, observational surveys indicate much lower percentages. Consistent use is higher in states with mandatory seat belt laws.
Only 25 percent of parents say they always use a helmet while riding a bike, and only 40 percent of children say they always do.
Most parents are aware of the importance of practicing safety behaviors; however, they do not always practice what they preach.
Eighty-six percent of parents say that wearing a life jacket is very or extremely important, but only 39 percent of parents report always wearing one.
In addition, 93 percent of parents say that crossing a busy street at a crosswalk, if available, is very or extremely important, and a much smaller percentage, 68 percent, say that they always do so.
Parents and children are more likely to engage in safe behaviors when they are together.
Seventy-two percent of parents are less likely to cross in the middle of a block when they are with their children.
Most parents report that their behaviors became safer when they had children of their own. Seventy-one percent of adults became more likely to wear seat belts after becoming parents.
For more information about how parents can be good safety role models for their children, contact the Hill County Safe Kids Coalition at the HELP Committee and Boys & Girls Club of the Hi-Line, 265-6206.
Hill County Safe Kids is part of the National Safe Kids Campaign, the first and only national nonprofit organization dedicated solely to the prevention of unintentional childhood injury - the No. 1 killer of children ages 14 and under. More than 300 state and local Safe Kids coalitions in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico make up the campaign.
Founding sponsor Johnson & Johnson continues its 17-year partnership with the campaign. Johnson & Johnson will support National Safe Kids Week with a national advertising campaign. It will also distribute safety checklists through retail stores nationwide and send a freestanding insert of coupons to more than 41 million households.