“Stranger danger.” It’s short. It’s simple. It even rhymes! But is it really the most effective abduction prevention lesson for our children?
Children do not understand the concept of a stranger. Many believe that strangers are mean, ugly people — so the nice man asking for help to find his lost puppy? Not a stranger.
Children also learn that some strangers – like store clerks, police officers, or parents with children – are helpful. It may be hard for them to understand the difference between strangers who could hurt them and strangers who may help them.
Most importantly, “stranger danger” ignores the fact that most children are abducted by someone they know.
Avoiding strangers will not help if the abductor is a family member, neighbor, or family acquaintance. When you talk to your children about abduction prevention, don’t focus on warning them about certain types of people. Instead, teach them to identify and respond to threatening situations.
Say goodbye to “stranger danger.” Try using the following language when talking to your child about abduction prevention:
- Don’t say: Never talk to strangers.
- Say: You should not approach just anyone. If you need help, look for a uniformed police officer, a store clerk with a nametag, or a parent with children.
- Don’t say: Stay away from people you don’t know.
- Say: It’s important for you to get my permission before going anywhere with anyone.
- Don't say: You can tell someone is bad just by looking at them.
- Say: Pay attention to what people do. Tell me right away if anyone asks you to keep a secret, makes you feel uncomfortable, or tries to get you to go with them.
In addition to these conversations, use role-playing scenarios to help your children practice their abduction prevention skills. The more children practice, the better prepared they will be to respond to an emergency.