A Guide for Parents
Keep Children Safe Among StrangersThere is no doubt that children are vulnerable. They are innocent, and trusting. By nature they don’t expect adults to do bad things, and this can leave them exposed to risk. Their innocence is one of the most delightful characteristics of children, and we don’t want to disengage them from that wonderful aspect of their life. But at the same time, in order to protect them, they must be taught how to remain safe when approached by strangers.
Hardly a day goes by in this country that there are not reports of children being abducted by strangers. Amber Alerts were developed to help catch the perpetrators after a child has been taken, but it is far better to prevent the abduction in the first place.
- Teach children that they should never go anywhere alone and they should never become separated from their friends while playing, because this leaves them in the most vulnerable position possible. Child predators always try to separate their victims from the company of friends or other children that are playing together in a group.
- Instruct your child that if a stranger approaches and tries to engage in conversation, the child is to run away as fast as possible before the stranger can get close.
- Teach your children to not be enticed by strangers who are trying to show them a puppy, offering them treats, or saying that the stranger is supposed to drive the child home. Tell your children that if anyone ever tries any of these tricks, they are to report the incident immediately to a teacher or some other trusted adult.
- Make a game of teaching your children to escape and evade by playing “keep away.” Train your child to take advantage of whatever obstacles are available that will slow a pursuer — such as running through a jungle gym or other playground equipment.
- Teach your child to run toward other people who are known to be safe, such as a teacher or a group of friends.
- Teach that the child should scream and yell for help while running away from the stranger. This will often turn the situation around and cause the perpetrator to leave the scene before he can be caught.
- Encourage your child to be very observant of details — color of clothing, height, skin color, hair color, color and type of vehicle, license plate numbers, etc. so a good description can be given to authorities. Make a game with your child of learning to quickly pick out details. Go to a park and observe people, asking your child to identify several specific details. Do the same with vehicles in a parking lot.
EXCEPTIONSWith all this training about avoiding strangers, there are situations in which children actually DO need to seek the help of strangers, and your children must understand how to recognize those conditions and what to do.
- If the child is lost, and people are searching for him or her, the searchers will be calling the child’s name. That indicates they the searchers are safe.
- But just because someone knows a child’s name does not mean they are a safe stranger — a schoolyard predator might learn a child’s name by simply asking another child.
- In an urban or suburban situation, a lost child (perhaps at the mall) will not hear search teams calling his/her name. When the child realizes he/she is lost, the proper thing to do is to find someone who is wearing a name badge or someone who is working behind a counter (store employee) and ask for help finding the parents. The child should not approach random adults.