Mother's Corner: Keep kids aware of surroundings
by Yolande Barial
May 23, 2014 | 1445 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
My high school son attends an enrichment program at UC Berkeley. The freshman group’s case study was on how to increase teen ridership on BART. There were several interesting ideas about unique ways to get the word out that BART is a viable option for teens. But each group of students that presented shared the same concern: They did not feel safe on BART. They wanted to have more security on the platforms and in the trains.

During a Q-and-A, my husband remarked that safety was indeed a concern for parents also — and yet, had the children thought about taking some responsibility for their own safety? His thinking was that the kids needed to be aware of their surroundings and not be so tied to their electronic devices or each other, to the extent that they were oblivious to where they were and who was in their proximity.

I remember once our daughter had to give directions to someone who was driving her to practice for the first time, and she could not give clear directions. Even though she had been driven to practice three times a week for years, she had no clue how she got there. I assumed that because she was in the van, she was paying attention; we all know what happens when you assume.

My husband took the lead in ensuring that our children were taught how to pay attention to their surroundings by reading street signs, looking for landmarks, reading maps and understanding left and right, north and south, east and west.

It has been noted in the peer-reviewed journal Personal and Ubiquitous Computing that we check our smartphones 34 times a day. My husband explained to our son that when your head is constantly in the down position checking the phone or listening to music with headphones on, whether walking alone or standing in a crowd, your natural protective instinct is not active. We cannot see the danger if we cannot sense the danger.

What my husband did was begin to ask our daughter to tell him which way to turn, asking her what street they were on and what stores she saw along the drive. After being thoroughly irritated by this exercise, she got it and has learned to observe what is going on when she is walking and riding in the car. She can now tell you where she is and how she arrived there.

Just as we teach our children what is good for them to eat versus what is not, we have to teach them responsibility for their own personal safety. Parents are not always going to be around. Someone should be the lookout. Just as there is a designated driver, there should be a designated watcher. We must begin today to prepare our children to co-exist in their environment so they will not be the victims of that environment.

• Yolande Barial is a Tracy resident and mother. Her column appears monthly in the Tracy Press. Send comments to

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