A number of years ago, there was a story about an 11 year old who was shot in the face. The shooting was accidental and the gun was legally registered and owned. One child was at another child’s home and they found the gun and played with it. The expected result occurred. One child pointed the gun at the other and pulled the trigger. Stories about children shooting children with lawfully owned guns keep appearing in the news.
Asking questions about child safety before sending your child to a neighbor’s to play is extremely awkward and potentially offensive. However, the safety of your child should be paramount. Asking safety questions before entrusting your child to the care of another adult should be routine. If you screen potential babysitters before hiring them then you should screen other adults as well.
Gun Safety. Experts indicate that one in three families with children have guns in the house. Not all of these households take appropriate measures to keep children safe from guns. It should be routine practice for parents to ask: “Do you have guns in the house?” If the other parent does have guns, there should be follow up questions. “Do you have a gun safe?” “How do you keep the guns safe?” “Is the gun loaded?” Is the ammunition stored separately? It is not enough to discuss the topic with other parents. You need to discuss this with your child. You need to impress the child with an understanding that toy guns are different from real guns. Children can’t tell the difference so it is better to tell them that they can’t play with guns in someone else’s home unless an adult gives them the toy guns. Children should be told to assume that a gun is always loaded. They should NEVER point a gun at a person. They should not even pretend to point a gun. Children may not understand death but they do understand getting hurt and having pain. Children should be taught that if someone points a gun at them they could die, be injured, or suffer pain.
Dogs and pets. Most people consider their pet dogs to be friendly and safe to children. However, even friendly dogs can attack strange children who don’t know how to interact with dogs. Dogs can be protective of household children. A playful interaction could be misconstrued by a dog as an attack on the child they protect. Sudden moves by a child can cause a skittish dog to bite. Some people believe that particular dog breeds are prone to dangerous behavior. Some dogs may need a supervised introduction to a child before the child is accepted by the dog. Teach your children how to interact with dogs to avoid injury. Dogs do not like hugs and kisses. Dogs should not be approached without permission of the dog’s owner. Even if the dog is on a leash, the dog should not be approached. Never take food or toys away from a dog. Don’t wake a sleeping dog. There are additional methods that can be taught to children to avoid injuries from dogs.
Other issues: Parents may want to ask about other concerns. Swimming pools can pose a danger to children. Some parents are concerned about children being exposed to cigarette or cigar smoke. You may want to ask if a babysitter will be watching the children. How old is the babysitter? Does the babysitter carry a gun? Does the babysitter smoke?
Vaccines: While vaccines were not an issue in the past, parents may not want their child to be in close contact for a prolonged period with children who have not been vaccinated against Covid. Like other matters, a parent who wants to protect their child should ask about Covid vaccines for all household members before having a play date.
Taking the time to ask appropriate question to protect your child is not a social issue it is a matter of child safety. Child safety should take priority over concerns of offending other parents. Taking steps to avoid injury is better than a child suffering an injury and then needing the services of an attorney.