Parents from all cultures and communities want their children to be safe from harm. While Australia is generally a safe place, children can be harmed at home or in the community.
Preventing children's accidents
Many children are hurt in accidents. It is the main cause of injury and death for children under 15 years.
Most accidents can be prevented.
- being hit by a car in a home driveway or on the road
- drowning at the beach, swimming pool or in the bath
- falls in the playground, at home or other places
- burns, poisoning, choking
- babies dying from sleep accidents.
There is a lot parents can do to help prevent accidents and protect children from harm.
Keep young children safe by staying close and watching them.
Road and car safety
- The law says: anyone driving a vehicle must have a licence; everyone must wear a seat belt; children must use the right seat belt or safety seat for their age and size.
- Never leave children alone in a car even for a short time. Cars get very hot, very quickly. Children can become ill and some have died.
- Always supervise children near traffic. Hold their hand when crossing roads.
Many young children are hit by cars in home driveways. Check children are safe before moving your car.
Children can easily drown, even in small amounts of water.
- Never leave children alone in the bath.
- Stay close and watch them at the beach, swimming pool, rivers.
- Put up barriers to keep children away from water, such as ponds or pools. Empty water out of baths, buckets, sinks.
- Teach children to swim.
- Teach them how to be safe at beaches, rivers, dams. These waters can be dangerous.
Learning to swim can be a fun activity for the whole family. It is never too late to learn.
Many accidents happen in the home.
- Put dangerous things out of reach - knives, cigarettes, lighters, alcohol, medicines.
- Keep children away from fires and heaters.
- Make sure they can't reach pots of hot food on the stove. Turn pot handles away.
- Keep hot drinks away from children.
- Make sure furniture or TVs can't fall on them.
Watch children around dogs, cats or other pets.
Safe sleep for babies
Some babies die in their sleep if their face becomes covered and they can't breathe. They are too small to move out of danger. Some die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Always sleep babies on their back, not on their tummy or side.
- Keep their head and face uncovered.
- Don't smoke around babies or pregnant women.
- Sleep babies in a safe cot, not on soft things such as couches.
- Don't put anything soft in the cot such as pillows, quilts, soft toys.
- Sleep babies in the parents' room, in their own cot, for the first 6 to 12 months.
- Breastfeed babies if you can.
Babies need their own place to sleep so they don't get too hot or rolled on. It is not safe for babies to sleep with you.
Young children can easily choke.
- Don't give them foods they can't chew such as apples, nuts, lollies, sausages with skin.
- Don't give them chewing gum.
- Stay close while children eat.
- Watch out for toys with small parts or button batteries they could swallow.
Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. The sun burns in less than 15 minutes even on a cloudy day. Make sure everyone:
- wears a hat and loose, cool clothing
- uses sunscreen (30+ SPF)
- is in the shade, especially between 10am and 3pm.
While protection from the sun is important, we all need some sun on our skin each day to get enough Vitamin D for strong bones. It can be harder for people with dark skin or who cover their skin to get enough sun. Ask your doctor about Vitamin D.
Children going out alone
If children go out without an adult they need to know how to:
- be safe on the road or when riding a bike
- use the bus, tram, train or taxi. Make sure they have enough money
- contact you, another trusted adult, or emergency services on 000.
It is important to know where children are going, how they will get there and who they are meeting. Ask about their plans for staying safe, especially
Leaving children home alone
The law says that parents are responsible for children's safety and must not leave them in an unsafe situation. Children always need to be looked after by someone who:
- you know and trust
- is mature and responsible
- knows what to do in an emergency.
Children always need someone responsible to look after them.
Parents can help children learn to use the internet safely by:
- talking with them about what they are doing
- using it yourself so you know how it works
- letting children know to tell you or another trusted adult if something worries them
- finding great information on the eSafety website.
If there is bullying you could talk to your school or report it to internet providers or the Police.
Make sure children know not to meet anyone they only know online.
Family violence is a problem in every community and culture. It is never OK. It is against the law in Australia.
Violence can be:
- physical, such as hitting, pushing, pinching, hair pulling
- emotional, such as shouting, making people feel bad, making threats
- controlling what people do.
Violence in the home harms children. Even if they don't see or hear violence, the stress changes how their brain works and they can't grow or learn as well. It can affect babies in the womb. Family violence can make it harder for
adults to care for children.
If there is violence you can get help from services. Phone the Police on 000 if there is immediate danger.
Children's safety is at risk if family members are affected by alcohol or drugs.
Sexual abuse can happen in any culture or community. Parents can help keep children safe by teaching them:
- that their whole body is private
- to tell you or another trusted adult if someone makes them feel scared or uncomfortable, even if it is a family member or friend
- that you will believe them and protect them
- that you don't keep secrets about these things
- not to go with anyone they don't know.
Most sexual abuse of children is by people they know and trust.
If you feel angry or upset, remember never shake a baby. It can cause brain damage and some babies die.
- If you are very worried about a child you can take them to a hospital emergency unit.
- If you think a child has swallowed something harmful, call the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 or an ambulance on 000.
- If anyone is seriously ill, injured or has trouble breathing, call an ambulance immediately on 000.
If you think a child is at risk of violence, abuse or neglect, you can help by phoning the Child Abuse Report Line on 13 14 78.