KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The East Tennessee Valley Crime Stoppers gave several tips on how families can best keep their kids safe as they start a new school year. Stacey Payne spoke about making sure children are aware of their surroundings and that strangers can be nearby.

Payne said every child has an idea of what a stranger is, which is why it’s important that parents and guardians talk to their children.

She defined a stranger as anyone a child or person does not know well. She said this includes knowing information such as their full name, where they live, the name of their parents and if a child’s parents know them or not.

Payne shared stranger awareness tips for children of all ages.

  • If someone fits into the definition of a stranger, children should not talk to them without a parent’s or teacher’s permission.
  • If a stranger approaches a child to ask for directions or to help, like finding their lost puppy, children should find and tell a trusted adult immediately. No adult should ask a child for help.
  • While kids wait at the bus stop or walking to/from school, they should always be aware of their surroundings.

Payne also shared online safety advice for students.

  • Be careful what you share online. A picture of in a school or sports team uniform can give provide someone with the information they need to located you.
  • Remember, people can pretend to be anyone they want to be online while hiding behind a keyboard. If a child or teen gets a friend request do some homework before accepting. Are they really who they say they are?

In the end, Payne said if anyone makes a child or young adult feel uncomfortable (in the real world or online) they should go to a trusted adult and tell them what happened immediately.

Additionally, Payne shared advice on how kids can make sure they are being safe while walking or biking to/from school, and also while they wait at the bus stop. They can be found below.

  • If a student is riding a bike, walking to school or taking the bus they should always assume no one can see them and keep off the roadway if possible. Remember, it is often dark when your student is going to school or the bus stop. Reflective tape on backpacks can be helpful.
  • Kids should also not assume everyone can see them and will stop to let them cross the street. Before crossing the street, look both ways and make sure everyone sees you before crossing.
  • Students should not stand too close to the road while waiting for the bus. Take three giant steps (about six-feet) away from the curb to wait for the bus.

Drivers also need to be alert and stay cautious as kids and families work on getting into their back to school routines.