Written by Alicia Kolenda
There has been a lot of controversy about when kids should start commuting alone, and whether or not it’s safe to take public transit in the city. Most teachers recommend you allow your child to get themselves to school somewhere around age 11. But as to their safety, it entirely depends on the parent to teach their children how to use transit.
Here are some safety tips outlined by the Toronto Police Department:
Before your kids start going to school alone, make sure they know the easiest route to take. Outline the buses, subways and streetcars that they are allowed to ride and establish consequences for deviating from the plan. Set up a time when they have to leave the house and a time when they are expected home. Create a backup plan so they know exactly what to do in case they ever get lost.
Train your kids to be aware of their surroundings
Teach your kids to walk quickly and with purpose. They should always be looking around on public transit, without the distraction of phones or iPods. Make sure they have their fare ready when they get on transit. And while riding teach them to notice the people around them to make sure they aren’t being watched or followed. Above all, tell them to trust their instincts. If they ever don’t feel safe, they should be able to find their way to a more crowded area or an authority figure.
If someone confronts them
Your child should know exactly what to do if someone confronts them. They should be told to remember everything they can about encounter, including details about how the other person looked. If someone who could be holding a weapon asks for personal items, they should be given over immediately. If they are ever threatened, they should make a scene, screaming to get other people’s attention. Afterword, any confrontation should be reported to the police.
Ways to prevent theft
When your child is on public transit, they should keep all backpacks and pockets zipped. If the subway is especially crowded, they can turn their backpack around, attaching it to their chests. Try to separate essentials. Keep identification in a zipped up jacket pocket in case their backpack is ever stolen. And make sure their not using cell phones and iPods on public transit as distracted people can be easy targets.
Remember, if your child sees anything suspicious they should tell someone. If it’s not their parents than a teacher when they get to school, a public transit authority or a police officer.