As the school year ends, many children will spend more time at home alone or at the homes of friends. Since unsupervised kids can be curious, parents need to take a few precautions and set expectations for summer behavior. Spokane Regional Health District is urging parents to take a few simple actions to reduce common risks around the house.

"Parents need to plan for their children's safety," says Dr. Joel McCullough, Health Officer for the Spokane Regional Health District. "Unsupervised kids and teens are naturally curious, therefore it is a good idea for parents to take a few steps to safeguard their children during the summer."

Here are four important issues for parents to take action on:

Guns:

Is there a gun in your home or in another home in where your child plays? Over 40% of homes with kids have a gun, and many of those guns are left unlocked or loaded. Talking to your child about the dangers of guns is not enough. If a gun is in someone's home, there is a good chance a child will find it and play with it. If you have a gun, lock it up and lock up the ammunition separately. If your child goes to a friend's house, ask if there is a gun before sending your child over to play. If you have any doubts or concerns about the safety of someone's home, politely invite the kids to play at your house instead.

Medicine & drugs:

Another risk to the safety of your child is access to medications, including over-the-counter medicine, prescription medicine, and even natural supplements and seeds. Last year, over 10% of Washington high school students said they used medication to get high within 30 days of the survey. Medications should be in a locked box and the quantity should be monitored. Dispose of expired or unused medications promptly – crush and mix them in the garbage or kitty litter. Also, reports of Spokane teens who have ingested jimson weed seeds and become ill have drawn attention to this potentially deadly, natural hallucinogen. Parents need to monitor their children for signs of drug use and take immediate action if drug abuse is happening. Talk to your kids about drugs – visit www.theantidrug.com for conversation starters.

Alcohol:

Alcohol abuse is another hazard that can be underestimated by parents. Many people who develop a pattern of alcohol abuse and alcoholism began drinking in their teen years. While getting alcohol from their homes is only one of the ways that teens access it, it is crucial to keep alcohol locked and monitored, keeping it out of the hands of teens, who may not understand the deadly potential it poses. Alcohol can also influence decision making, leading to serious consequences. Talk to your kids about the dangers of alcohol.

Personal and sexual safety:

Talk to your adolescent kids about your expectations regarding personal and sexual safety. Kids need to know that most sexual assaults take place by someone the victim knows. They also need to know how to set limits with a romantic interest, and they should have a plan to be safer when they are in such a position.