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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that 80 percent of crime on U.S. college campuses is property-related, with most losses involving theft. Even a modest theft can carry a high cost for the victim. A single book bag, for example, can easily hold $1,000 worth of textbooks. Add more loss if the bag included a laptop and other electronic devices.
Let there be no doubt that young adults heading off to college face more complex campus-life risks than when you attended. Young adults use the latest technological devices including laptops and smart phones to engage in social networking with their family and friends. Although much good has come from these devices, it is not without risk. Instead, these devices have greatly increased the physical and financial threat your son or daughter may face as they head off to school.
For example, your children may use Twitter and other real-time chat tools to make their whereabouts known and thus leave themselves vulnerable to stalkers and thieves. To combat risk, make sure your children know that people can be tracked because of these tools. Instead, suggest that your kids engage in more traditional ways by calling their friends to meet.
Another threat to campus life is the risk of identity theft. If a student loses an ID card or a wallet containing his or her driver’s license and credit/debit cards to a thief, the stolen information may make that person vulnerable to identity theft.
Social media has changed that bad behavior, such as a night of youthful indiscretion or alcohol-induced idiocy, used to be forgotten, and can now be captured by cell phone cameras or videotaped and put on the Internet for all to see. Your student should consider the high probability that a classmate may post character-damaging comments or “tag” troublesome images of him or her. A permanent record of the bad behavior now exists. A future employer may not look kindly on these types of postings. It may even harm the chances of getting hired.
Partying remains a constant on college campuses. There is real danger with this type of lifestyle. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that in 2005, 1,700 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries, including motor-vehicle crashes. Additionally, more than 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking, and more than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.
As a parent, you will want to alert your children to these realities and talk about responsible behavior. Also, if you are in the college-planning stages, talk with representatives from the school about campus alcohol policies.
Even if your college-bound children are responsible citizens, they must remember that being unduly tolerant of—or negligent in responding to—the bad actions of others can invite litigation. For example, hosting a party where underage classmates are drunk and disorderly, or a coed is sexually assaulted by a guest, or a drunken friend is paralyzed while driving back from the campus party can result in the parents of these students filing a lawsuit against you, especially if they perceive that you are wealthy. Instead, talk with your child about these scenarios and encourage your children to be responsible.
The tragic news behind campus violence, even the bullying that occurs on high school campuses, is a reminder to parents to communicate with their kids about these real risks. Consider the ramifications if your child is accused of contributing to a cruel atmosphere that causes a student to lash out violently against others. The victims and their parents may seek revenge through the courts.
It’s also important to consider how major events, such as the 9-11 attack, Hurricane Katrina, the Virginia Tech massacre and the recent H1N1 flu outbreak, might force a student to vacate campus for a long time. Parents need to have contingency plans in place to handle these catastrophic events.
As a parent, you shouldn’t worry too much as long as you’ve talked to your children about the risks they may face. In fact, there are many positive changes as a result of the new technologies enabling the average freshman to maintain a lifeline to parents through cell phones, e-mail, text messaging and wireless broadband. Through these modern-day conveniences, parents can offer an attentive ear and a well-timed word of advice.
Learn more about the crime of identity theft from The Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Learn more about children and alcohol, and college drinking from The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.