Continuing the Conversation on Staying Safe and Well
How to Discuss Safety
Parents and family members can have a strong impact on young people’s health behaviors. It’s important that you talk to your student about a variety of health and wellness topics before they start school to ensure their health and well-being during college. Have the conversation early and often—check in throughout the academic year (especially during their first semester and first year away) to see how they are doing and to provide additional health and wellness information. You don’t have to be an expert! Simply bringing up the subject could be helpful and keeps the doors of communication open with your student, which is another important aspect of keeping your student well throughout college.
There are many aspects of safety to consider now that student is in college and away from home. This may include personal safety, safety in relationships, safety and security of personal belongings or medications, internet safety, fire safety within their room or apartment, safety with alcohol, and food safety if your student will be cooking or storing food.
Did you know that colleges and universities that receive federal funding have to share their annual campus safety and security reports with community members each year? Under the Clery Act, campuses must share campus crime data for the past three years with the community. Becoming familiar with your particular campus’ report can help you identify if there are specific campus safety measures you can take. You may view the U.S. Department of Education’s Campus Safety and Security online database. You may also want to discuss these campus safety tips with your student.
Cyber Security and Internet Safety
While the campus IT department will be working at the community level to keep your student’s campus safe from cyber threats, individual internet safety is important. It is important to know that a lot of what your student puts online can be public. Your student can increase their cyber safety by taking these precautions.
If your student is living on campus, many campuses will have a list of acceptable and unacceptable items allowed in residence hall rooms. Items on the unacceptable list, like candles, open heating elements, and halogen lamps, are there because they create a risk for fire. Before or during move-in, your student’s campus will provide fire safety information. It is up to your student to learn where the emergency call boxes or alarms and fire extinguishers are located. Make sure your student can identify two exit options from their room and is aware of exits in classrooms as well. Here are some additional fire safety tips.
If your student is living in an apartment or will have access to a kitchen, they may be cooking for the first time. When it comes to food and cooking, there are many safety considerations regarding food storage, cleanliness, preparation, cooking temperatures, and fire safety. Here are some cooking safety tips to get a conversation started with your student. Even if your student won’t be cooking, if they are storing food in their room, it’s important they understand how to store food properly.
Sexual and Relationship Violence
The Basics of Sexual and Relationship Violence Related to College Students
Sexual violence is a form of sexual harassment that includes physical sexual acts perpetrated against a person when they have not given consent or are unable to give consent due to the use of drugs and/or alcohol or an intellectual or physical disability. Sexual violence includes a spectrum of behaviors such as rape, sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual coercion.
Sexual violence is an act of power and control. It can happen anywhere, at any time, and to anyone, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, or culture. It is often committed by someone known to the victim/survivor—a partner, acquaintance, or friend.
To better understand the prevalence of sexual and relationship violence on campus, view these statistics.
Campus Safety Reports
Campus safety reports, which include statistics required by VAWA (the Violence Against Women Act), are available to the public. The U.S. Department of Education offers Campus Safety and Security resources that allows students and their families to review safety and security data for individual schools as well as compare data among schools.
Colleges and universities conduct campus climate surveys to better understand the attitudes, awareness, and experiences of students regarding sexual violence. These surveys can also help campuses estimate incidents and prevalence of sexual violence and collect information about students’ experiences with the campus’ programs and policies. With the data that these surveys provide, schools can craft solutions to sexual and relationship violence. If you’re interested in learning more about the campus climate at your student’s institution, you can reach out to the Title IX or student affairs office.
A very important topic to discuss with every student, no matter their gender, is consent. All forms of sexual activity require consent. Read about giving and getting consent here [link to consent] and discuss with your student before they head off to school. You may find it helpful to discuss this topic a few times over the summer, prior to classes starting.
Support on Campus
There are many resources available on campus such as support services, accommodations, should they be needed. Learn about them here.
What You Can Do If Your Student Experiences Sexual Violence
If your student discloses to you that they’ve experienced sexual violence, it’s important not to place blame on your student. You may consider responding with statements like “This is not your fault,” “I believe you,” and “Thank you for telling me.” You may ask your student if they want to report the situation to campus authorities; if they do, you can help your student find on- and off-campus resources for reporting. If your student doesn’t want to report, there are likely confidential resources available both on and off campus, such as the counseling center or victim advocates.
You may have discussed the birds and the bees with your student when they were younger. Now you need to take it a step further and discuss values and why they matter because your student will likely be exposed to new and different situations in college–this includes those dealing with sex and sexual health. Key points to discuss with your student include, but are not limited to: Safer sex and reducing risk, the importance of communication and how to do it, consent, sexual anatomy and understanding your body, and sexual response cycle. It may feel awkward, but it’s an important part of keeping your student healthy in college.
As parents, it’s important to know about the college drinking culture and help to prepare your student for what may lie ahead.
While excessive drinking isn’t true of all college students, it does happen, and choosing to drink alcohol can have important implications for the drinker and those around them.
- About 1 out of every 5 students meet the criteria for an alcohol use disorder.
- About 1 in 4 college students report academic consequences due to their drinking (e.g., failing exams, missing classes, lower grades overall), and consuming higher levels of alcohol is linked to lower academic performance.
- Annually, nearly 700,000 students between 18 to 24 report being physically assaulted by another student who was drinking, and 97,000 report alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
It is important to have open discussions about alcohol use with your student both before they leave for school and throughout their college years. You can have a positive influence on your student by being clear about your expectations regarding their behavior and the possible risks involved in consuming alcohol. You can also help your student by talking about what situations they may encounter and how they might handle those situations. For example, ask “how might you respond if you are at a party and being pressured to drink when you don’t want to?” “What will you do if your social group becomes centered around alcohol use?” To keep the lines of communication open, refrain from being judgmental or lecturing, don’t threaten them with punishment, and ask them what they think and feel about alcohol use.
Need help figuring out how to tackle this conversation? Check out some of these resources:
Learn more about campus life without alcohol or other drugs.
A very important discussion to have with your student is about substance use. You may find discussion points about types of drugs, vaping, tobacco and cessation, alcohol, study drugs and marijuana here. Additionally, there are resources to discuss being substance free in college and recovery and recovery communities on campus.
It’s important to discuss with your student the signs and symptoms of mental illness and how they can learn to recognize when they may need help. You can start by discussing these articles with your student. Be sure to talk to them about the setbacks they may experience, especially during their first semester or year. Learn more about when you should intervene or let them learn how to navigate setbacks on their own.