Preparing Children for the New TSA ProceduresNovember 27, 2010 1 Comment
As the holiday travel season ramps up, families are facing controversial new procedures at airport security checkpoints. The debate on the new procedures has become a firestorm of controversy, but the TSA is holding fast to its belief that the new procedures are necessary for everyone’s safety. Some families are actually choosing to avoid flying altogether. If you choose to fly, proper preparation can help your kids know what to expect.
Choose Neutral Language
Much of the debate regarding TSA security procedures uses hot words such as “naked scanning” and “groping.” Whatever side of the debate you fall on, these procedures are a current reality. When explaining the process to your children, avoid using hot words. Instead, use neutral language such as “scanner” and “pat down.”
Provide a Step by Step Explanation
Explain to your children that there are three current security processes in place — metal detectors, body scanners and pat downs — and that they might be selected for one or two of those processes. Familiarize yourself with each procedure and explain each in language that your child can understand. Stress the importance of standing perfectly still inside the body scanner, since movement can blur the image and trigger a secondary pat down.
Practice Going Through the Checkpoint
Kids are generally most comfortable when they know exactly what to expect. Use a large cardboard box to set up a pretend scanner. Have your child step inside and hold his arms up over his head. Make sure the child knows that, depending on the type of scanner, it may be loud.
If your child is selected for the body scanner, he will have to not only take off his shoes, but also his belt and any outer garments such as a jacket. He will also need to completely empty his pockets. Practice this process, throwing items into a box or bin, until your child is comfortable doing it quickly and efficiently.
Dress the Part
The goal of enhanced security measures is to find any items that might be hidden under the clothes. Make it as easy as possible by dressing your kids in lightweight clothes that fit well. Baggy and bulky items may trigger secondary screening, and can make it more difficult for TSA agents to perform the search. Choose slip-on shoes if possible, and unload everything from your family’s pockets into your carryon bag before approaching the checkpoint.
Use the Green Line
Most airports designate different security lines for travelers with different levels of experience. The green line is designated for travelers with disabilities and families. Although the security screening process is the same in all lines, the time pressure is not. Everyone else in the green line will be dealing with strollers, diaper bags, medical devices and other items, so take as much time as you need.
Line up in Advance
One major downside to the new security procedures is that you must leave your personal items unattended on the scanner belt while you undergo enhanced screening. Children old enough to walk must go through the scanner unattended, and must not touch you while you are undergoing your own screening. Minimize the amount of time that your child and your bags are unattended by lining up your family in advance.
Send one adult through first, with no carryon bags, and let others in line go around you until the first adult is cleared. Then send everyone’s carryon bags and the first child. The first adult can keep an eye on both the child and the bags while everyone else goes through. An adult should be the last person through security.
File a Complaint
If you feel that anyone in your family is violated in any way, don’t hesitate to document your experience. Write down the names of everyone involved along with the time and date and a brief description of what happened. The TSA complaint address is listed on the TSA website, and some people also follow up with complaints to their congressional representatives. Many websites and newspapers are also collecting complaints.
While in the situation, though, remain as calm as possible. The TSA does have the power to detain you for questioning and even levy fines for refusing to cooperate. Speak calmly and quietly, cuing your child to do the same.
Above all, try not to worry about the new procedures. Children are very sensitive to their parents’ emotions, and they may become upset or confused. Maintain a positive demeanor, and your kids are more likely to do the same.