Child Safety, Stranger Danger, & Keeping Your Kids Safe

It is an unfortunate reality that there are people who intentionally set out to harm children. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations there are thousands of children who are victimized annually. These crimes range from violent attacks to preying on children over the Internet. Parents can help reduce the danger to their children by helping them recognize the dangers that strangers represent. While strangers are not the only people who can harm children, it is important that kids know to always be aware of strangers and how to avoid encounters that could have dangerous consequences. It is the responsibility of teachers, parents or the legal guardians of children to provide them with the knowledge of how to stay vigilant and safe at all times.

Who is Not a Stranger & Who is a Stranger

Before children can effectively defend themselves against threats from strangers, they must first be able to differentiate who is and who is not a stranger. In the strictest sense, a stranger is anyone that the child does not know. It can also apply to any adult who has not been introduced to the child by a parent or guardian. Therefore, a person who is not a stranger is someone who the child is familiar with.

Good Strangers Versus Bad Strangers

Complications regarding strangers begin to arise when parents must rely on someone who the child is unfamiliar with. This can occur during an emergency, for example, when the parents are unable to pick up their children and must ask a trusted friend, coworker, etc., to pick up their child or children for them. During these times, children must know how to differentiate between good strangers and bad strangers.

In anticipation of an emergency, parents should establish secret code words or phrases that can be said as a way of letting kids know that the "stranger" is acting on behalf of the parents and is "safe." Police officers and firefighters also fall within this gray area of good and bad strangers. Children should be taught that these are people who can help them, but they must also be aware that people can dress up and pretend to be law enforcement as well. The presence of a squad car, fire truck and the appropriate attire are all ways that a child can determine if he or she is dealing with a fraud or an actual officer.

Why is it Important to be Careful of Strangers

Teach children not only to be careful of strangers, but also why they should be careful. Kids should understand that regardless of what a stranger looks like, he or she may do things that can hurt children. Some strangers may attempt to steal children away from their families in order to hurt and even potentially kill them. Other people may hurt children by giving them harmful things like drugs or alcohol. Warn kids that some people may attempt to look at or touch them in places that they should not or they may even try to make children touch or look at them. Impress upon children that all of these are bad and are the reason why strangers should be avoided.

What to do if You Feel Like Someone is a Stranger

Explaining what to do when approached by a stranger is the most important thing that a teacher or parent will explain when discussing the dangers that strangers represent. How a child reacts can make a big difference in terms of their safety. If a child is away from home he or she should run to a trusted adult for help or run to the nearest place of safety such as a library, police station, fire station, grocery store, or a friend's house.

Advise kids never to answer any questions that a stranger may ask or talk with them in any way. Children should never approach a vehicle when called as they may be pulled in. If a stranger touches or grabs the child, tell him or her to yell as loud as possible, make noise and fight back in an attempt to get free. When shouting, kids should say that they don't know the person who has them or yell "Stranger!" so that onlookers are aware that the child is being accosted.

If a child is home alone he or she should never open any doors for a stranger, speak to them, or answer the phone. Tell children to call 9-1-1 if anyone attempts to break into the home. Tell children to let an adult know if a stranger online attempts to chat with them or sends them pictures over the Internet.

Tips on Talking to Kids About Stranger Danger

When talking to kids talk with them in language that they can understand based on their age group. Keep in mind that the intent is to teach and not frighten children to the point that they are afraid of everyone. Try to involve them in the conversation by asking questions to determine how much they already know about safety and the potential dangers that strangers represent. Provide them with different scenarios and practice what to do so that they will react automatically if the situation should arise.

It is important that teachers and parents use caution when discussing "good" versus "bad" people. There is no look that represents "bad" strangers and kids should be taught to be cautious of every stranger regardless of how bad or attractive they look or how nice they may seem. Make certain that children realize that bad people often behave nice in order to get children to feel comfortable and do what they want. Explain to children what public places are safe and that the adults who are at work inside of these places can help them if they are scared.

It is important to point out who works inside of various places, what their uniforms may be or where they will be standing or sitting if they are employees. Most importantly teach kids to trust their instincts. If they feel a person or an area is unsafe they should avoid it and seek the presence of a trusted adult. When talking to kids, also discuss strangers online and how they can also have the intent of hurting kids. Ensure that kids realize that even online strangers that say they are the same age may be adults pretending so that they can harm unsuspecting kids.