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What You Need To Know To Keep Your Kids Safe When They Leave the Nest

When kids leave the nest and go off to college or move out of the house, many parents are having sleepless nights thinking about their baby leaving home. On one hand, it’s exciting for your child to experience new things and discover their passions. But the news reports full of burglaries and scams sure aren’t making it easy for you to drop your teenager off at college. 

Before you try convincing your teen to do college online and live at home forever, listen to this episode. I talk with Cathy, best known as TikTok’s “Mom Friend” to her 2.3 million followers, who shares how we can prepare our teens to be safe after they leave the nest. 

Scroll down to read the full episode transcribed.

What You Will Learn: 

  • 5 seemingly innocent questions that predators use to take advantage of you. 
  • The top apps to ease worried parents’ minds.
  • What to know about protecting yourself in your dorm or apartment.
  • How to quickly take a look at your child’s apps to see what they are involved in. 
  • What are the dangers of parking lots and how can we protect ourselves?
  • Advice on mace and tasers and which is recommended. 
  • The small improvement you can make to your door to prevent it from being kicking in.

Where To Find Cathy: 

Find more encouragement, wisdom, and resources:

Sign up for our Moms of Tweens and Teens newsletter HERE

And here is the episode typed out!

Welcome to the Moms of Tweens and Teens Podcast. If some days you doubt yourself and you don’t know what you’re doing. If you’ve ugly cried alone in your bedroom because you felt like you’re failing. Well, I just want to let you know you are not alone and you have come to the right place.

Raising tweens and teens in today’s world is not easy. And I’m on a mission to equip you to love well, and to raise emotionally healthy, happy tweens and teens that thrive.

I believe that moms are heroes, and we have the power to transform our family and to impact future generations. If you are looking for answers, encouragement, and to become more of the mom and the woman that you want to be welcome. I am Sheryl Gould. And I am so glad that you’re here.

SHERYL: Welcome, Cathy, to the show.

CATHY: Thanks so much for having me.

SHERYL: I’m so glad that you’re here. I think this is so timely, what we’re going to be talking about. We’re going to be talking about how to teach your teens to protect themselves after they leave home. I’m in the thick of it right now. 

I want to launch in because, reading about all that you have done on Tik Tok, you’re known as the mom friend to more than 2.3 million flowers. They then listen to you, your life safety hacks, and videos. You are also an environmental scientist, and you’ve been a TV host on QVC and syndicated TV stations all over the place. So how did you come to be a safety hack?

CATHY: I suppose it probably started a little bit with the Environmental Science Park because I used to focus a lot on indoor air quality and things like that. That obviously has to do with safety, but it is just from a health perspective. I’ve always lived in big cities and things like that. So that has some effect because you’re used to seeing things that maybe you don’t see in other places. 

I’ve also traveled a lot, but probably the biggest learning lesson for me was actually television and when I started getting more active on social media as a result of being on television. Because, frankly, followers and job longevity have a lot to do with each other when you’re on TV. What I didn’t realize I was very young, in my mid-20s, was the risk that the internet poses for somebody to get information on you.

They’d have to be at your job or at your house or physically where you are at. And now, so much is available online that it really expanded my consciousness with these kinds of things. Then, in addition, we did receive training, working for the big national network. And millions of homes, you get a little bit of training there, too.

SHERYL: Wow. And so you are on television, and you started becoming more aware. This is such a need: all your videos, I learned so much. And moms are scared. We hear all the worst stories of what can happen. 

My daughter is graduating on Saturday from college, and she is in a big city right now, and she’s moving to a big city. She grew up in a small town. And so she was just talking to me about some of the stuff that happens. And some of the ways that predators can trick you. She was even telling me they would leave money on your windshield. Have you ever heard of that one? To get you out of your car? 

CATHY: I have heard of that. So those kinds of things tend to go super-viral on social media. It’s kind of like internet lore. But if you look into the history of it and where these things start, generally speaking, they’re false. 

I talk a little bit about that on my page. Like, I’ve talked about the water bottle story. There are people online that swear it’s happened to them, and maybe it has, but what hasn’t happened is police putting out a report saying this is happening. 

There’s an uptick in crime as a result of this, so be careful. I oftentimes think when people have the experiences, you don’t know if what people are saying online is real or not because you have no idea. It could be anybody. But I oftentimes think what happens is it could have been a kid being malicious and trying to mess with them, and it could be something like that. 

Police haven’t linked it to an uptick in crime. But it’s hard to say is it 100% True or 100% False? Because it’s just people are commenting things on the internet, and so you don’t really know where it’s coming from. 

I always try to do a little bit of background research into those things and see if they have public service announcements been put out or any kinds of tweets and things like that. In some cases, there are police announcements. 

For example, recently, Apple released their air tag device, which is like a little GPS tracker, which is super handy if you want to keep an eye on your bicycle. Your backpack, your car, basically acts like a little mini tracker. 

So the downside of this device and not just this one, there are other devices too. But Apple has a longer GPS range, which is why it’s popular. But the downside is that at bars or different places, women were reportedly finding them in pockets of their jackets in their purses, tucked behind the license plate. And so it’s been happening so much, something that started on the internet as people telling their stories, and then it graduated to police making announcements about it. 

I think even the Washington Post recently made a video about it. I’ve done videos about it. And so that’s one that started on the internet, and then we’re still not really sure what’s happening with it. But it became something that I guess enough people were reporting that was real.

SHERYL: Okay. So we’re gonna get into that. What I hear you saying is, don’t believe everything that you’re hearing? We need to be watching your TikTok for you to tell us these things to help us out. What are the seemingly innocent questions that predators will use to take advantage of our kids

CATHY: Well, it could change because in-person is very different than online. Online, you can sort of build up a little bit of trust and a little bit of a rapport so that you can get more out of the person. It’s kind of easier to do it online. 

But oftentimes, the questions are the ones that have to do with your personal facts about your life, and this could be in person or online. 

Do you live alone? Where do you live? And where do you live? If you say, in New York City, there are millions of people, and there are hundreds of neighborhoods. So that’s not really that specific. Or if you say, New York, is it the city, is it the state? Something like that is very vague and probably not putting you at any major risk. But if they also have your full legal name, your birthday, and that kind of stuff now, it’s easier to pinpoint who you are. 

It depends if you rent versus own. Because if you own all of your records from the home address, all of that is public. So that’s the other little caveat. 

Do you live alone? You know, where do you live? Why are you alone? It’s a question that is a little bit different. Because when somebody’s asking, Why are you alone, they’ve already observed that you’re alone. So that means they’ve already been taking notice of what you’re doing. So many types of questions like that. 

There are also, typically, people who want to know, are there people in your life who care about you? If something happens where you’re missing for two days, is anybody going to notice? So, are you in a relationship? Do you feel the love? They want to know if you’re vulnerable

And so those kinds of questions of: do you have people around you who love and care about you? Do you have stability in your home? Do you have stability financially is another one, too, because if you don’t have financial stability, which I know as a college kid is impossible, but if you have your parents, you feel somewhat stable, and it’s easier to scam you. And it’s easier to say,” Well listen, I have this great job for you. It’s in a different country with me.” Those types of questions point to your vulnerabilities. I would say those are definitely some of the most common.

SHERYL: Now, how does that happen? It would look differently on social media, where they reach out to our teenagers, and they’re asking, they’re building rapport, and they ask those questions. Where might that happen if you’re out and about as a teenager, as a college student? 

CATHY: The good thing about it happening in your physical presence is that generally, you have a good gut reaction in those experiences versus online, we don’t have a gut reaction. 80% of communication is physical, your body language and the tone and all of these things. Online, we don’t have that. So, it does make it a little bit harder to know how genuine somebody is. 

But when somebody is physically present in front of us. It’s actually better, and I think because we can read our gut a little bit better. And so, in those cases, it could be somebody hanging around the dorm. Some of these campuses are- I went to an all-women’s college, and if there was a guy, we immediately know he didn’t go to our school. So immediately, there were certain floors where men were not allowed to be and stuff like that in the dorm. So, you immediately know that somebody is out of place. 

But in some of these large campuses, you have 50,000 people, and it’s impossible to know who’s a student, who’s a teacher, who’s a worker, and so really could just be anybody. 

It could be on campus, and it could be a bar – that’s an easy one. Especially people are drinking; maybe their senses are not as quick to respond as they would be in other scenarios. So that’s an easy one. But in college, I met some creepy dudes just waiting for the bus stop to get back to campus. You just never really know what somebody’s intentions are. 

My approach is that I always like to play nice. You play nice, and you’re vague. I don’t want to escalate the situation, and I don’t want you to know that I think you’re a creep. I’m on guard and then make a quick exit. There are some people that have opinions on just saying a hard no, which does work for certain scenarios. But that’s where your gut comes in if you’re trying to be vague and get out of a situation and somebody is being persistent. That’s when you know, all right now, I’ve got to get nasty with you.

SHERYL: Is this mostly girls, or are boys also susceptible?

CATHY: So it’s interesting because it is pretty even; I think it’s like a 60/40 kind of split between like boys and girls. But the general perception is that women are more affected. There are some numbers that show that women are more affected, but then when you look into it, the population size might have been a little different. But does affect women slightly more than men. 

But that being said, while that could be true with harassment and stuff like that, men are affected more by violence because of the fighting and that kind of stuff. It could even be over a girl, but there’s definitely more fighting. So they are definitely more violent. 

I mean, it could affect anybody. And then also there are other elements like your race, your gender, are you more feminine? Are you more masculine? Those kinds of things can also affect the way people perceive you on the street. And then, if they’re upset by your presence in any way, are you going to get unwanted attention because of the way you are, which also happens?

SHERYL: Yeah. So what are some common situations at college, and what are these predators going for? I know sex trafficking. That’s one that so many of my moms are scared about that they don’t even want to let their girls go to the mall. They’re very afraid of that. And when they’re 11, you gotta go with them, it depends on the age and talking to them and communicating, and then they get to college.

CATHY: So that’s a little different.

SHERYL: So what should we be telling our kids? What do they need to worry about? What do we need to have talks around?

CATHY: There are a couple of good things in that regard. Generally speaking, when we’re talking about something like trafficking, it’s somebody in the family of friends, or it’s something more drastic, like, drugs, or war or destabilization because your country’s government has collapsed and you’re being forced to go across borders and stuff like that, like what’s happening in Ukraine right now. 

That puts a lot of people in a very vulnerable situation to be trafficked. Because you’re getting across borders, you don’t know who to trust, and you may not speak the language, you don’t have a job. You’re highly vulnerable to those situations. 

For something to happen, just randomly, somebody you don’t know at the mall is actually pretty rare, which is a good thing. And when it does happen, luckily, police have pretty good recovery rates. So that’s one thing to be aware of. 

The downside is that it’s almost harder to know. “Oh, this friend that I’ve been talking to, my girlfriend, just put me in this situation where now I’ve disappeared from my family.” And we’ve seen it even with these sort of famous celebrity types of cases, like the R Kelly case where he was bringing in these teen girls that were just about to turn 18 and brainwashing them. 

And “oh, I’m gonna give you a career in music and all this stuff. And now you’re trapped in my house, and your parents have no authority over you. Because now you’re a legal adult, and I brainwashed you.” Those are the types of things that you have somewhat of a relationship with them, and it does make you more vulnerable, especially if somebody has a power like that. 

But I would say from a parenting perspective, and the most important thing is communication. If your kids are telling you what’s happening at school, the funny things that they saw on social media, they’re showing you “look at what I just found, Mom,” that you have like a good relationship and somebody who probably isn’t keeping secrets from you. 

But if it’s the opposite, if it’s the I’m locked in my room, 12 hours a day, I have a secret phone that you’ve never heard of, or I have friends that I’m saying, “Oh, I met at school, but they’re older than me, or they live in another state. They live in California, but I met them at school. And then they moved things like that. These kinds of things are little red flags of, what is my kid into? 

And another easy way, if you really have no idea what’s going on through this kid’s head, look through their social media, Instagram app, their TikTok app, even if you’re not looking through their messages. Everybody has different opinions on that, depending on your kid, I look. But, if you want to know what your kid is into, just open that “for you page” on TikTok, and you will know in less than five minutes are into illegal substances? Are they into sexy kinds of clothes? Or what kind of music are they into? What kind of dances are they into? You will know everything, and in five minutes, because those algorithms are so pointed, they will even tell you if your kid is depressed, it will know. And when you open up that feed, and you start seeing all these things about depression, you’ll be like, “Oh, okay, maybe something’s going on here. Maybe I need a mental health consult.” 

Because in some ways, it’s bad. You could easily go down a rabbit hole on these apps and kind of stay in this state of whatever depression or substance abuse; it’s almost like a confirmation bias. You think the entire world is like that. But in the other way, it’s kind of good from a parenting perspective because you can use it as a tool.

SHERYL: Yeah, to be able to check up. I love that: to be able to look, and that it will show you what they’re really watching.

CATHY: Right. What are they into that maybe they’re telling you, maybe they’re not. I have a 17-year-old sister, and I opened up her “for you page,” and I was like, “Okay, we need to talk about what is going on.” But then I have a 12-year-old niece. I look at hers, and it people making slime and foam stuff and satisfying videos. I’m like, “Okay, you’re fine.” 

SHERYL: Yeah, there are no red flags there. Watch out for the red flags. I’m also curious. One of the things that my daughter was saying and one of the things that she has heard is you need to be careful about an elderly person knocking on your window, saying that they are in trouble. And that is one of the ways that they actually can take advantage. 

She said that happened to her she dropped my husband off at the airport, and she said an elderly woman came up to her car, knocking on her window and saying, “help, I’m in trouble. I need help.” She said, “I felt so badly, but I just drove away.” But there were a lot of people around. What do you make of that?

CATHY: If she was at an airport, there would be no reason for anybody to be coming to her. There are authorities on every square inch, and there’s chaos, there’s everything. What could she possibly need help with? But that does happen. Not just in public settings like an airport or a parking lot or something like that. It happens at your home. And it could be a woman knocking on the door, and when you open the door, a group of people from around the corner come in the barrel through the door. Generally, it’s theft-related, but they often are armed. So it’s very scary. 

It’s unfortunate in those situations because, of course, we want to help people. If we see a woman with a baby screaming that she needs help, of course, we want to help her. But, we don’t know, is it safe? Is it not safe? And so, in the situation where it’s at your door, you could offer to call the cops for somebody in the situation of the airport, like with your daughter, there was just no reason unless the woman was, on the floor, because she fainted and hurt herself or hit her head or something like that. Then I would say, “let me call emergency services for you.”

But if you’re standing at my door, you can go stand at the actual door of the helpdesk. So, it’s unfortunate, though, because that does happen a lot. And we want to help. A lot of scams are like that, too; they just fake things. 

I saw one of somebody saying that their puppy needed surgery and was starting a GoFundMe page. And it was completely fake. It was just a scam.

SHERYL: Wow. That’s so disheartening because we want to help. You have to really be aware. What would have happened? Let’s say this was a woman that had bad intentions; what would they do? And what if she had opened up her window? What might have happened? 

CATHY: Oftentimes it is theft-related: maybe they want the vehicle, maybe they want something from her. In that case of the airport, they are high traffic areas where they even have trafficking posters in the bathrooms and stuff like that, if you feel unsafe, or to call this number and all of that. But oftentimes, they steal the car, or maybe they steal something. 

SHERYL: Okay, good to know, because I always wondered. So how can our kids protect themselves in an apartment or dorm?

CATHY: So one thing is moving day is a very big, high fast time. Because you’re leaving all the doors open, you’re coming up and down the elevator 25 times, and for convenience, your car doors are open, or the truck door is open, or the building doors are open. So it’s a peak time when stuff gets stolen. Because it’s just easy. Everything’s open. It’s free to access everything. 

So if you really care about your stuff and want to make sure that it’s protected, when you unload the truck or your car, lock everything up. I know it seems simple; people will say, “Well, if somebody really wanted it, they’ll just break the window,” which is true. But it’s amazing how much a simple lock can deter people. 

I see videos in my neighborhood community app all the time, and we have cars stolen. I think in the month of June, there were like 25 or 30 cars stolen in my neighborhood alone, and I’m in a small town and a nice town. So it happens all the time. But you see these videos of people going up to the doors locked, and they just walk away because there are so many people that unlock their things that they’re like, “I’ll just move on to an easier target.” 

Now, if you have $10,000 sitting on your passenger seat, maybe they’ll break the window because that’s a high reward. But it’s amazing how much something simple like a little lock can change things. 

And then the other thing, there’s a lot of things that you can do whether you’re renting or owning, with things that you can get on Amazon, like little window alarms, or door alarms, or even the doorbell cameras like they’re battery operated. And so you don’t have to drill any holes. You do have to recharge your battery. That’s the downside. 

But you can take advantage of these tools. It’s so much easier now. And there are sets on Amazon, and it’s like $25 for little alarms. And if it goes off, you get a text on your phone. So even if you’re not home, you know you get access. 

One thing I would add to the high peak death times, not just moving days, but also any periods where there’s vacation, or spring break, Thanksgiving, winter break, all of those kinds of things where your things are left unattended. That’s a higher time. If you’re in an off-campus apartment, then it’s an easier target. 

That happened to my husband in college. This is in Maryland, all these colleges are not great neighborhoods, but the college is very safe. The surrounding areas are usually not that great. So my husband was in his room sleeping, and a couple of guys came in, and they started tearing things apart. They stole like gaming systems and games and TVs and that kind of stuff. And my husband heard it, and he was terrified, but they knocked on his door, and he lied. He said, “John’s not here right now.” He made a noise so that they knew somebody was present. 

Usually, they’re not looking for a physical altercation. Usually, I just want to steal stuff, and I don’t want to get caught. And if I do get caught, I don’t want like high jail time if fight somebody or kill somebody, and I’m going to have a much higher jail time than if I stole your Playstation.

So, he lied and said, “Oh, John’s not here and let them steal whatever was outside, and they didn’t go into his room.” So that’s another thing. I feel like a lot of times when somebody knocks on our door, and we want to be quiet because we’re like, “oh, just leave me alone.” 

But the thing that you’re supposed to do is make it known that you’re home. And if you feel that, “I don’t want them to know that I’m a girl who’s alone” or something like that, then there are other things you could do, you could turn on the television, you could flip on a light in the bathroom, just something to indicate this house is not empty. 

Because usually, they want you to know, in terms of theft. Usually, they want an empty house. And you can even use smart devices like an Echo or a Google Home or any of that kinds of devices. You can play music, have it make barking dogs sound and stuff like that. So you can use sounds of anything to f make it known somebody’s here. 

You can even pretend that you have a dog – put like a big metal muzzle or those giant choker metal collars. Just hang it by a visible window or hanging by the door or something. So somebody thinks there’s a big dog in there. Nobody likes big dogs. They are not afraid of many poodles. 

SHERYL: Oh, we have a standard poodle. He’s as sweet as can be. But people are scared of him. And if somebody’s broken in, I think he probably would do something.

So, because if you act like somebody’s there, your husband really thought on his feet to say, “John’s not home.” He was acting like he didn’t know somebody was even stealing.

CATHY: He was acting like they were just looking for a roommate.

SHERYL: And did they leave immediately?

CATHY: I think I stole a couple more games or whatever. But they left, and it wasn’t like he didn’t care. He was just like, “I would rather take whatever you want. I just don’t want to end up hurt.” He was like holding his baseball bat just in case.

SHERYL: Okay, my daughter’s moving into an apartment in a big city. So next month, so I’m thinking about this, you’re giving me good ideas to have her get one of those things on our door that you can see there. What else? What about parking lots?

CATHY: It’s funny because some experts say that we shouldn’t actually be as afraid in parking lots. Women tend to be uncomfortable in parking lots. I disagree with that because I feel like it is a time where, if I am uncomfortable, I’m uncomfortable. Let me be uncomfortable. I’m not saying that there’s heightened crime in parking lots versus other places. It could be all the same. If you feel more vulnerable in a parking lot because your back is turned, maybe at some point. 

So here are a couple of things that I do. I like to park my car if I can with the rear – to back into a spot. Because for me a couple of things. One, if something happens, I feel like I can get into my car faster. I don’t have to turn my back to where I’m blocked by four cars. I’m kind of closer to the edge, so I feel more comfortable that way. So if something happens, I could just speed out. I don’t have to worry about backing over somebody, and I have full visibility to see people. 

In general, because you have full visibility, it does reduce most of the accidents with pedestrians and stuff that are in parking lots, like people either backing out of a driveway or backing out in a parking lot. So when you park reverse in, it is safer than regular. It’s always safer. But also, as a woman, I feel that I’m safer if I’m approached because the way I’m parked, I can get in and out faster. 

And then, of course, there are things that I think we all do, which is like always keeping the doors locked. Like the second you get in, you lock the door.

SHERYL: I do that. And I look at my backseat even though I’ve locked it. I’ve watched way too many scary movies.

CATHY: Especially at the gas station. That’s a big one. I’m very lucky because I’m in New Jersey, and I never have to get out of my car to pump gas. So I just roll down the window. Give them my card. And we have attendants in Jersey. It’s fantastic. If it’s raining, if it’s cold. If it’s whatever, somebody comes in and pumps your gas, you’re not allowed to get out of the car and pump your own gas.

SHERYL: I did not know that in New Jersey. 

CATHY: They’re supposed to technically clean the windows and stuff too. And then you tip them, but nobody ever does that. Nobody actually cleans it anymore. 

Another thing is, aside from parking close, and in well-lit areas and stuff like that, if your car has an alarm. When I was a teenager, I would just loiter in parking lots, hanging out, sitting on cars, and talking to friends. And I knew that I wasn’t doing anything bad. But let’s say I was at a mall parking lot, and that’s somebody’s car, and there are six kids hanging around their car, and you’re coming out by yourself, of course, you’re going to be like, “Well, why are all these people near my car?” 

So another thing that you could do is set off your alarm as a warning like, “Oh, I’m approaching the car,” see if they disperse. The same is true in your home. If you don’t have an alarm system, which is often the case, if you’re renting or in a dorm, sleep with the car alarm. You should technically sleep with the keys of your car close on your nightstand, not by the front door. Because people do smash and grab things where they know, people keep their keys by the front door. 

So they grab them and then steal the car. What happens if they need the key – oftentimes, you don’t even need the key. But if you’re sleeping with your remote control to the car and you hear a noise, you can send it off. These things are deterrence. But usually, when people are committing a crime, the goal is not to get caught. And so big sounds, big lights, things like that increase my chances of being seen, identified, and caught. I don’t want these things to be around. 

And actually, lights is another part of that, and they’ve actually done tests on this. It’s something I talked about in my book, but the number one thing was better lighting reduced crime by 33%. That applies to our homes too. But a takeaway for us with our homes and things is you can get some of these tools, and it doesn’t have to be hardwired. There are so many things that they sell now that are solar-powered and that are sticky. So you’re not damaging, especially when you’re renting or in a dorm. You’re not damaging anything.

SHERYL: Mace and tasers. Is that something you recommend? 

CATHY: I think so. They’re easy to use. They’re non-lethal. The only thing is that there are state restrictions about it. For example, I went to college in Massachusetts, where you weren’t allowed to have that. At least not a taser. Now, I’m from Florida, so I brought it anyway. It was in my car. I never had to use it or anything. 

But the one thing I will say is the pepper spray stuff is great because it gives you a little bit of distance. You can use it within six feet. So that’s good, with tasers. There’s often confusion between a stun gun and a taser. So the stun gun is the little zappy one, and sometimes it’s like disguised as a lipstick or a phone or just a little box. And you have to get up close to somebody to use that. And also, it doesn’t really do much. I’ve tasted myself with those little things. My friends and I used to do it to each other in high school for fun. 

It doesn’t really do anything. And when somebody’s adrenaline is running super high, and if you’re zapping it from far away and saying, “stay away, I’ve got a little zappy thing,” that might deter somebody. But in reality, if you’re already up close and in combat, it’s probably not going to do too much. 

So the other one is a taser. Now, a real Taser has wires that shoot out. And it has like little claws at the end that burrow into the skin. So then, when it zaps you, you destabilize. And like it could go through winter coats as well, and the good thing about that is you have some distance. 

There is a company, and it’s called taser, actually. But their parent company is Axon. They are the ones that supply the tasers to police departments. And if you ever look at bodycam footage from police, if you look on the upper right-hand corner, or sometimes on the bottom left, you’ll usually see something that says Axon, that’s the company. And they have a line for law enforcement, but they also have a line for consumers. And so the difference in law enforcement. Tasers are about five seconds because they’re trained to tase and then capture the person through other means like handcuffs.

Consumers don’t have that training. So the consumer Taser lens is 30 seconds because the goal is to tase and run away. And hopefully, the person is destabilized for 30 seconds, which gives you a good lead to be able to get away, unless there are other kinds of ailments or something. So those are pretty cool. 

The thing is that they’re not legal everywhere. They’re also much larger than pepper spray. I have a couple of them, and it’s about the size of a flashlight. I’d say maybe like seven-eight inches, so it’s a little chunkier. A pepper spray is something that you could just throw on your keychain or slip into a little pocket. It’s smaller. That company has a stun gun, a taser, and a flashlight.

So if you’re walking your dog at night, for example, you can use the flashlight and then know that because the thing with tasers is with the two prongs, you want to split the belt level. So you want to get one above the waist and one below the waist to have maximum effect. And if you miss or anything like that, then it’s not as effective. This thing also has a stun gun built into it as a backup, which is pretty cool.

SHERYL: Oh, that is cool. My son actually bought one for both of his sisters. They can really carry it on a keychain right now. 

CATHY: They do make the little ones that are like pocket size, but it’s not a taser. It’s a stun gun. And so those are the ones where if I had to choose personally, I would prefer pepper spray because of the distance.

SHERYL: Okay, good to know. Cathy, there are so many good things that you’ve shared with us. Anything else that stands out to you that we haven’t talked about? I want you to tell everybody about your book too. 

CATHY: I would say one more thing. That’s actually pretty easy and simple to do when you move into a new house or apartment or something like that, even if you’re renting – is looking at the screws in the strike plates. That little metal part where when you close the door where the latch goes in that little metal part. So look at the screws there. Oftentimes, they’re just half an inch short. And if you extend it to one inch, or one and a half inc. 

And this is something that you could get for $1 at the hardware store, it’s so cheap, and you just change the screws. It actually makes your door sturdier in terms of being kicked down or anything like that because the little screws, those half-inch ones, don’t go into the framing of the house. It just stays in that little border on the door that doesn’t really do much. But when you make it longer, it goes into the framing of the house.

Now, of course, this depends if you’re in a brick kind of place where maybe it’s a little bit harder. Maybe your door frames are metal or something, and it’s a little harder than that’s different. But your average wooden doorframe. That’s a nice little trick. I don’t know how often people are coming down trying to kick down doors, but if they do, it makes it harder for them.

SHERYL: I had that happen in college somebody kicked in the door of our apartment and robbed us. They threw everything off our back balcony, all our TVs, and all of that, but they kicked in the door. People on both sides just kind of heard something but didn’t go out and check. So it does happen. So that’s a good tip. 

CATHY: In Washington state, where somebody left their home for an extended period of time, and she didn’t have locks on the windows, and she came home to people in her apartment. Not only that, they sold off all her stuff on the Facebook marketplace. They sold $50,000 worth of her stuff. So she came back to an empty apartment. Sometimes on Facebook marketplace, we see these things, and we’re like, it’s either a scam, or it’s stolen goods because the deal seems too good to be true. People find all types of ways to make money.

SHERYL: Yeah, no kidding. But that probably doesn’t happen that much.

CATHY: I would think not. I would generally think when people are stealing things if your place is unlocked, it makes it easier. Yeah, yeah. I don’t know that they always go through the trouble of selling it on the Facebook marketplace. Usually, it’s 12 to 15 minutes in your house or apartment. And they’re looking for medicines, cash, alcohol, jewelry, and weapons. Electronics is a big one. Those are quick things that you could just easily grab and sell.

And not really that traceable, although I will say with gaming systems and electronics and stuff – a lot of people don’t write down their serial numbers and save it. But if you do, it makes it easier for police to try to find it. Because generally, if somebody is reselling the stuff to a pawn shop, what I’ve been told by a detective is that they’ll generally be within like a two-mile radius of your home. So the police will send out notifications to local pawn shops and things like that, or at least they’re supposed to.

SHERYL: Okay, apps. What are some good apps parents can have access to that will help to keep kids safe?

CATHY: Speaking of the tasers and pepper sprays, there are some that are interconnected with an app. So like, if somebody uses a pepper spray, on alert would go to their emergency contacts, which is pretty cool. And the same is true with the taser. I think right now, the taser that I’m thinking of they have an integration with this company called Noonlight, which is very popular; basically, it’s a panic button. And it’s just a button that you hold on to your phone. You just hold it down. And if you release it, emergency services come.

So as you’re going to the parking lot in the middle of the night or going to work in the late-night hours. You hold on to this button. And if anybody approached you, you would just say, “Hey, if I let go of this button, police are coming.” People have reportedly said it worked for them. 

The other thing cool thing about that app is it’s also integrated with Tinder for some extra safety features and things like that. So with online dating apps, that’s pretty cool that it has that integration. But there are other ones too. 

There’s one for Android called Hammer Security, which is pretty fun. It’s free. Of course, a lot of these apps come free, but then you can pay for extra features and premium features. But they’ve got some cool ones where it’s only for Android, though. But say you’re in a toxic relationship, and somebody’s snooping through your stuff, and you don’t aren’t aware of it. This app has a feature where if somebody puts in the wrong password twice, it actually takes a selfie of them and emails it to you without them knowing. There’s no flash or anything like that that goes off on the phone. So the image can be a little bit dark, but you will know who’s looking.

One of the worst times I’ve had in terms of dating people that were just totally out of their minds, so I had a boyfriend put a GPS on my phone that I was not aware of. And I discovered it later on, looking through phone accounts and stuff like that. And I was like, Why do I have a GPS? He said it was for my safety, but I wasn’t aware of it. So you can catch those kinds of people looking through your phone. 

And then there are some other really cool ones. It’s called SOS jewelry. And this was a company where it’s a bracelet or keychain or necklace, or a hair tie, or whatever. And there’s a little button on it. And if you click it twice, it’s integrated with an app on your phone. It messages emergency contacts that could contact the police. If you get the premium feature, there’s a live agent that you could talk to. 

So if you’re uncomfortable, if you feel like you’re being followed at a store or uncomfortable in a parking lot, you could talk to an agent and be like, “Hey, can you stay on the phone with me while I walk in my car I’m not comfortable right now.” 

Or, show them a description of people around you or whatever. It’s a live agent. It’s backed by ADT Security, which we’re familiar with. And there are other companies that have similar technology. So there’s a lot out there that’s pretty cool. Particularly for women, I feel like the jewelry integration is cool, but there is another company they’re not linked with ADT. They have some jewelry that’s it’s more beaded, so I feel like it can be a bit more masculine too.

SHERYL: You share all these ideas on TikTok, and I saw the one about the hammer there.

CATHY: I do. The only challenge with TikTok is that there are so many videos that you have to scroll through it and find, so it can be a little bit hard. The benefit, I talked about a lot of this in the book. Sometimes, I try not to lean too hard into the brands. I list several brands which I use in the book. 

But with some of the other stuff, those things can change. So what I want to do now is create a little an online freebie with a list of companies that I trust to go along with the book. But if not, I also have these kinds of things on my social media. People can always just message me and be like, “Hey, what’s a good brand for this?” I have my email on my Instagram, so it’s pretty easy to shoot me a one-off question for me to respond to.

SHERYL: Okay, awesome. I’ll put all of this in the show notes where to find you but share with our listeners where to find you?

CATHY: So it’s pretty easy because my name is Cathy Prayers. If you type in Cathy on Twitter, Instagram, or Tik Tok, I think I’m the first one that pops up, and if you type Cathy P, I’m definitely the first one.

I used to start all of my videos with “Hey, it’s the mom friend of the group” and then go into my tip. But I started shortening my videos. And so I cut that part out. I want to go back to it, though. Just to kind of remind people where that came from, to begin with. You can’t miss me. I’m the girl in the blue dress.

SHERYL: Tell them the name of your book?

CATHY: Yes. So the book is called “The Mom Friend Guide to Everyday Safety and Security.” The subtitle is “tips from the practical one of your squad.” Because the mom friend isn’t necessarily a biological mom. But the one that friends of yours who are like, “Oh, you want snacks. I have snacks in my bag. Oh, you want the mom of the group?” That’s the name of the book, and it’s found everywhere where books are sold, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Target, and indie bookstores everywhere.

SHERYL: That’s awesome. Cathy. Well, thank you so much for coming on. We need this. This is a big concern for us moms to keep our kids safe. You’re doing important work.

CATHY: Thank you. And what’s amazing, too, is that a lot of my audience are not moms. They’re just as interested. I have teens following me, and I have people in their 20s and people in their 30s. And then people in their 40s, too. We seem to all be interested in this topic. 

But one thing I should mention about my page and about the book, too, is that I try very hard not to make anything scary. I keep it positive, and I keep it light. I do that, honestly, because I have a 12-year-old and eight-year-old niece that follow me. So whatever I post, I want to make sure that if they see it, I’m not freaking them out.

SHERYL: So it’s a good one to share with your kids. And it won’t be using the scare tactics. It’s a good way to be able to talk to them.

CATHY: Right, exactly. I don’t do this scare tactic thing. It would get me a lot more views. It will help me go a lot more viral if that’s a sentence. But I don’t do it because, ethically, I just don’t think it’s right.

SHERYL: I love it because you make it fun and interesting. And they’re really quick. I like it because I don’t need to be more fearful than I already am.

CATHY: Yeah, you could rely on Netflix’s true crime documentaries for that.

SHERYL: Yeah, exactly. Thank you, Cathy, for being here and coming on the show

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