Everybody’s familiar with Toys ‘R’ Us, a parent’s best friend or worst nightmare. I drove by our local store the other day and it occurred to me there ought to be a sister company called Kids ‘R’ Kurious. The thought came to mind because two friends of mine have a 19-month-old daughter whose curiosity is just coming into flower. Her favorite fascination just now is keys.
A few weeks ago, walking in their neighborhood, she and her dad came across a group of three postal drop boxes – the kind with a slot to drop the mail in and a locked door for the mailman to retrieve it. Dad was indulging Bo’s interest by letting her play with the seven keys he carries for his home, office, etc. It’s not that Dad was a locksmith, he wasn’nt. The toddler decided to toddle up to the mailboxes and, to her father’s amusement, try all seven keys in the lock of the first box . . . and then the second, and then the third. Twenty-one failures later, she was ready to head home.
Most recently she’s discovered the fun of pushing the buttons on the car key control box. A few days ago Mom and Dad drove into the driveway and parked. While Dad was unfastening her safety seat, Bo took the keys from his hand. He didn’t think much about it, since she’s at the pick-it-up-and-hand-it-to-you-with-a-big-grin stage. Meanwhile Mom gathered the bag of baby tricks – the diapers, bottle, food, toys, etc. – and when Dad was ready, Mom locked the car and they headed toward the house. Then they heard a familiar sound and turned to look behind them. Bo was busy pushing all the buttons on the keys, and not only were the doors unlocked, the trunk lid was slowly rising. Thank goodness she didn’t hit the red alarm key!
Families with older children face a problem not of curiosity but of carelessness: security just doesn’t matter to teenagers who believe in their own invulnerability.
Parents go out, locking the door. The teenage son comes home, unlocks the door, turns on some music, and waits for his friends to come by. And what happens? The friends come in, too. Teen-dude didn’t want to bother answering the door when they show up! So now they’re all in the house with the music blasting (or headphones on) and an unlocked door inviting anyone to walk right in.
Teaching children the importance of security is as important as installing the right system of locks and alarms for your house. Very few people leave an extra key under the doormat or over the sill these days, and even parents with latchkey kids don’t like having to give housekeys to children too early. But whether you protect your house with traditional locks or a state-of-the-art keyless entry and alarm system, it’s more important than ever to impress upon children at an early age that security isn’t just the right equipment, it’s an ongoing process. An entry code is just as vulnerable as a physical key to misuse through careless distribution. Smart homeowners (and renters) have a master key for each lock that can be copied; all the others should be stamped “Do not duplicate.” And if you have an electronic or keyless entry system, you need to teach your children that the alarm or entry code is not to be shared!
Another tip – whenever you have houseguests, change the codes while they’re there and again after they leave. And if you happen to run across my friends and their daughter Bo, keep your keys in your pocket.