How to stay safe when you’re out and about with your friends is something that is pertinent to teenagers everywhere. There will be plenty of times when you and your friends want to go out, blow off some steam and have some fun together. Bowling alleys, cinemas, friends’ houses, cafes, pizza places, youth clubs or under-16s club nights are all popular meeting up venues, but if you’re going to be out on your own (and especially at night) then you need to know how to do it safely. Here are my essential tips:

  • Put your sensible hat on and, before you go out, plan how you’re going to get home! I know this isn’t always your first thought as a teenager, but it’s good to plan it. Parents, carers or other family members are your best bet here, as usually they will be happy to collect you or arrange for someone else (perhaps another parent) to do so.
  • Stay alert and tuned in to your surroundings whether you are walking in the street, waiting for a bus or with a group of friends. If you are walking alone, look confident and as if you know where you are going.
  • Always stick to well-lit roads and avoid short-cuts through wooded areas, car parks or alleyways.
  • Look out for one another. If you need to leave early let your friends know so they don’t worry about you. If you cannot get a lift from a parent or friend’s parent, make sure you have a number to hand of a reliable taxi company. Never get into an unlicensed taxi and never let a friend get into a cab you’ve hailed on the road on her own. Anyone can pretend to be a cab driver.
  • Don’t leave your bag unattended at any time. Take a small bag you can sling around your body and keep with you all the time. Don’t leave any drinks unattended either, in case someone has the idea to put something into it, such as alcohol or another drug.
  • Keep your mobile phone out of sight as much as possible, particularly on the street or on public transport.
  • Never accept a lift home from someone you don’t know or from someone you suspect has been drinking. If you’re stuck, make sure you call a family member or someone you trust to help you out.
  • Trust your own judgement. Don’t let other people persuade you to do anything or go anywhere you don’t want to. If something or someone makes you feel uneasy, try to leave the situation as soon as possible. If you feel deep down that something is wrong, go with your ‘gut instinct’ – as that is usually right.

Some of these things sound like common sense, but it’s easy to forget when you’re with friends and having fun.

Now let’s take a look at some of the questions.

My Facebook was hacked and I don’t know what to do!

facebook hacked

I logged into Facebook the other day to find that my password was no longer working. I looked up my profile page and discovered someone had been using my account and posting horrible status updates on my page and nasty things on my friends’ pages. Several of my pictures had been deleted and replaced with pornographic images! I’m so embarrassed because people from school will have seen them and I’m worried they might think I did it. What should I do?

Answer

It is distressing to feel that someone has masqueraded as you online and you have my sincere sympathy. A Facebook hack is often the result of a stupid ‘prank’ by a ‘friend’ (you may have left your profile logged in somewhere). Or it could be the work of a malicious and/or immature hacker who thinks it’s funny to create havoc in your life. To regain control of your account, you need to contact the Facebook administrators. Visit www.facebook.com/hacked and follow the onscreen instructions. Once you have regained control of your account the first step is to create a strong password containing numbers, upper case letters, lower case letters and special characters like the @ symbol, for example. In the meantime, explain to your friends that you were hacked and that you are dealing with it. Hold your head up high – you’ve done nothing wrong!

My parents say I’m too young to go to out at night!

too young

I’m 14 years old and all my friends are allowed to go to house parties or under-16s club nights. The club nights are alcohol-free and I really want to go, but my dad has refused and said I’m still too young. I don’t understand how I can be too young? I’m under 16 – and in 2 years’ time I’ll be too old!

Answer

It’s clear that your dad is anxious about you going out at night. While your reasons for wanting to go to house parties and under-16s club nights are perfectly reasonable, your dad is almost certainly aware of the potential problems and he is trying to prevent anything from happening to you. It would be a good idea to sit down and talk to him and try to reach some kind of compromise. Would he be willing to take you and pick you up from a club night, as much of the trouble tends to happen outside these clubs? Failing that, perhaps you could agree to him letting you go by your next birthday? Build up his confidence in you by sticking to his rules for a while so that in time he might feel that these clubs are suitable for you. Good luck.

How do I deal with sexist or rude behaviour on the street?

rude behavior

I really hate some of the attention my friends and I get on the street. Aside from older boys shouting rude things to us, I’ve had boys try to hassle me for a date or even try to grab or touch me.! I hate it but I don’t know what to say as they make you feel stupid if you tell them to stop. It makes me feel quite scared and puts me off going out at night.

Answer

For some reason certain people think it’s perfectly OK to harass teenage girls (and women of all ages) and shout sexist comments and/ or grab them on the street or in other public places. The best solution to this type of behaviour is to be fi rm without being too aggressive, so there is no risk of it turning into something bigger. For instance, say ‘No!’ loudly and confi dently if someone tries to grab at you and ask for help from friends or a passer-by if they won’t stop. The important thing here is not to let this behaviour make you feel too frightened to go out. Confidence comes from facing what’s happening and talking about it to your friends and family, not hiding away from it.

I’m scared of a girl gang who say they want to fight me

girl fight

Near where I live there is this gang of older girls who all hang out together. Whenever I walk past they shout comments about me or my sisters. Usually I ignore it but it’s getting worse. I heard from a friend that the main girl in the gang wants to fight me and I am terrified. I am not the fighting type and I am worried she’ll start something as I walk home from school. What do I do?

Tell someone what’s going on now before it escalates. Start with your mum, if that’s possible. Tell her you’re afraid and that they are picking on you aggressively. Then you can decide together what you’re going to do next. Do you want to get the police involved or try other tactics first? For instance, is there another route you could walk to avoid them, and is there a way to make sure you’re never alone when you’re near them? All these things can stop a confrontation and help you to feel safer when you’re out and about. If these things don’t work and the abuse escalates or turns physical, ask the police to intervene and stop these girls from harassing you. It can also help to do self-defence classes, not to learn how to fight (these classes are about the very opposite of this) but because learning how to defend yourself can make you feel more confident and in control when you are out on your own. Contact your local leisure centre for details of self-defence classes in your area.