A common sense approach works best.

College students often believe they are in a protected community on campus. But no matter the size of the school, the reality is that crime and accidents happen.

Talk to your freshman (or remind your upperclassman) about how to stay safe. For parents of commuter students, with the days becoming shorter, now is a good time to share safety advice.

Laptop2Lock your door, secure your computer and don’t let strangers in your dorm Dorm life gives many students a false sense of security. Computers, cell phones and other valuables often get stolen simply because a student left their door unlocked while they were down the hall visiting a friend or using the bathroom. When it’s late at night and the other residents are asleep or out, your child should keep their door closed and locked.

Devices that secure laptops to a desk or wall make it hard for thieves to snatch a computer quickly. The campus computer or bookstore usually sells these locks.

Though we’ve taught our children to hold the door for someone behind them, that’s not always the smartest move. Colleges added keycards for dorm access for a reason. If the face doesn’t look familiar, your student shouldn’t risk being the person who lets a potential thief into the dorm.

Don’t walk alone at night and avoid poorly traveled shortcuts Whether it’s a night class or a late study session at the library/lab/student union, your child shouldn’t walk alone to her dorm or car. If no one’s available, she can text a couple of roommates or friends to walk or ride over and meet her, or use the Campus Escort Service or Shuttle Bus.

When it’s late or cold or dark, everyone just wants to get “home” as soon as possible. But walking between buildings that are poorly lit and not well-traveled puts a student at risk.

The long way is safer.Campus policeTake advantage of campus security features Your student should keep the number for Campus Security/College Safety Office in their phone or wallet. The Campus Escort Service is also good number to have handy.

During the campus tour, your guide probably pointed out the Blue Light Security System call boxes. They are another way to reach campus security when a student can’t access their cell phone.

Avoid over intoxication Many college students drink alcohol and some others begin experimenting with recreational drugs like marijuana. Talk to your student about the use of drugs and alcohol and how getting too drunk or too high puts them at a heightened risk of being a victim of a crime or an accident.

Beer bottlesThe news is filled with stories of young adults being sexually assaulted when they were too intoxicated. Remind yours of these incidents. Plus, students who don’t know where they are or who are physically unstable can’t fight off a robber, be aware of someone snatching their wallet or phone, or cross streets safely. Not being able to remember where you were the night before makes it hard for anyone to find out where the crime happened.

Never leave personal belongings unattended Open spaces, like the library, dining hall, student union, lab or building lobby, are not places for your student to leave their laptop, backpack, electronic devices, etc. while they get a coffee or visit the restroom.

Park your car in a well-lit lot To save money, some students pay for permits in outer lots or some not even affiliated with their college. But if these lots don’t have good lighting and aren’t supervised by campus security, then they’re not worth the risks.

Be smart about using an ATM The best ATM to access is one in a bank lobby that requires keycard access. If that’s not available, one in a campus building in a public, high-trafficked area is the next best option. ATMs open on the street should be used only when a student is with a friend and during the day.

Check over your shoulder Especially at night, a student should be aware of who’s behind them and pay attention as they turn the corner in case they’re being followed. Someone coming at you is easier to identify and therefore less likely to bother you.

English: Crosswalk button.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t text, wear headphones or talk on the phone when crossing streets Some colleges are conducting campaigns to make students more aware as they’re walking on and off campus. College roads can be busy and students need to pay attention and follow the rules of the road, like using sidewalks and crosswalks.

Be proactive if you see a crime If your student witnesses a crime or accident they should try to help. But if the situation seems too dangerous, they should at least make the call to campus security or press the Blue Light call box.

This post is not meant to scare you Our kids think they’re invincible during their teenage and young adult years. Encourage yours to use some common sense to stay safe both on and off campus.

Please share any suggestions I might not have covered in the comments section below.