Consumer Watch: Tips for having a safe Halloween

When trick or treating, tell your children to approach only clearly lit homes and to never go inside.
photo Ellen Phillips photo for ConsumerWatch column that runs every Sunday - Please use this photo from now on

Readers always ask for a repeat of previous Halloween columns about child safety. These strategies help to keep kids safe on the scariest night of the year, mostly compliments of Cathy Lewandowski, AT&T's marketing director.

This is a great time to give your young witches and goblins a cell phone, regardless if they normally use one or not. (And does anyone over the age of 5 not carry a cell these days?) Activate old phones with a prepaid calling card and fully charge them before Count Dracula, Witchipoo and your smallest Ninja Turtle begin their evening entertainment. Program emergency numbers as a speed dial; the numbers also can be programmed as I-C-E (in case of emergency), which is a good idea for anyone's phone at any time. Get in on the fun and accompany trick-or-treaters younger than age 12, even if they cringe and grimace at your presence. Pin a piece of paper with your child's name, along with your address and phone number, inside the child's pocket in case you get separated.

Set ground rules. If your child will be trick-or-treating without you, establish a route and set a curfew. Review safety rules, including staying with the group, walking only on the sidewalk, approaching only clearly lit homes and NEVER going inside a home. Encourage older kids to trick-or-treat with a group of friends, parents or older siblings. Make sure someone in the group carries a flashlight with fresh batteries. Encourage your older kids to stay close to home and tell them not to go door-to-door in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Also important, tell your children to call home immediately should they become separated from others in their group or feel uncomfortable within their surroundings. Be sure to remain within earshot of your own phone.

Maintain contact information with chaperones. Trade phone numbers with all parents who're with you and those who are with your kids. And establish regular check-in times for both younger and older party goers and/or trick-or-treaters.

Drive responsibly. Take advantage of hands-free options while using your phone in the car, especially with so many youngsters out crossing the streets. Be a wireless Samaritan. Keep a lookout for anything suspicious or out of place and, if you note such, instantly call law enforcement authorities.

And, finally, for the young and those of us not-so-young, have a safe and enjoyable Halloween!

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com