Got a question about helping your children deal with bullying? Safety Savvy can help. Need information on Internet safety? Safety Savvy can help. Looking for ideas about working with your child’s school to promote a safer environment? Safety Savvy can help.
Available as a free app in both Apple and Android versions, Safety Savvy offers school safety-related information in areas including safe travel to and from school, classroom safety, bullying awareness, peer relations and extracurricular activities, as well as online safety information on developing family rules, protecting passwords and usernames, setting limits, preventing cyberbullying and more. Although it is a product of the Texas Center for the Missing (TCM), a Houston-based missing persons organization, Safety Savvy has universal appeal.
“It’s a lot of information, but we wanted to cover a multitude of areas that might have an impact on keeping somebody safe,” says Beth Alberts, chief executive officer of TCM. “Most of the content is not specific to Texas, although there is a form that can be used to report a missing person to us. If someone outside the state uses that form, we’re on call 24/7 and we will help them in whatever way we can, including referring them to a partner agency or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.”
In addition to the reporting form, the app includes a function to call 911 as well as information on preventing child abuse and abduction, travel safety and safety for seniors.
“I kept looking at it and wondering if there was anything we could cut, but it’s all such good information. I’ve been in the missing persons field for almost 14 years and I’ve seen what helps,” Alberts says. TCM staff pulled from educational materials and their experience in working with law enforcement, families and victims to develop the content for Safety Savvy, which was funded through a substantial donation made at a local fundraising event in 2013. A staff member suggested that developing an app would be a good use of the money, and in addition to spending the next year developing the content from training materials and staff experience, TCM also found a partner in a local development team that agreed to produce the app at a reasonable cost. Launch took place just before the holidays in 2014.
That staff experience also has led to a change in recent years in how TCM addresses the subject of abduction prevention in its trainings and materials: “We used to teach parents to watch their children on the street, because the majority of children were snatched going to and from school. In recent years, however, the trend has been more that they are lured online, so we’ve switched from a primary emphasis on street safety to online safety,” Alberts says. That switch in emphasis in abduction prevention training also led to an increased emphasis on cyberbullying prevention and Internet safety in general, because “cyberbullying is so pervasive and so difficult to fight and prevent.”
Toward that end, TCM staff members reach out to schools in the local geographic area to schedule safety training sessions, and staff work to develop ongoing partnerships with schools and with law enforcement. Alberts says TCM staff “like to think that our prevention and education efforts will decrease the law enforcement caseload. We take our relationship with law enforcement seriously and we want to prevent harm from coming to victims and families from being traumatized.”
Texas Center for the Missing was formed in March 2000 after the disappearance of 17-year-old Gabriel Lester, who was reported missing from his private high school. After his remains were located four months later, his mother, Doreen Wise, founded TCM. You can download the Safety Savvy app through TCM website at http://centerforthemissing.org/
Author: Becky Lewis, NLECTC