Does Teaching Stranger Danger Make Kids Safer?

April 5, 2024
Family Safety Tips

As parents, you've probably used the phrase "Stranger Danger” to describe to your kids those people to avoid. However, there are some shortcomings to focusing solely on the potential threat posed by people your child doesn't know.

First of all, some kids will heed this warning from their parents, but others could still be convinced to go with a stranger if they were offered candy or asked to assist in looking for a lost dog. In today’s world, strangers can even attempt to contact your child in real life and or through online channels.

Second, there's always a possibility your child may become separated from you and have no choice but to interact with a "stranger" in order to find help in getting back to safety.

So what's concerned parent to do?

Raising Awareness

Although this a sensitive topic, the best defense against child sexual predators is starting conversations early so that your children have the knowledge they need to identify what is or is not appropriate. Not only will they be more likely to recognize or even avoid a bad situation, but you'll have the reassurance of knowing that they're getting the correct information from you rather than from someone else who may or may not be reliable.

Depending on your child’s age, the conversation may not be as in depth as it might be with a teenager, but here are some examples of what to say in different scenarios. If a registered sex offender moves into your neighborhood:

  1. Tell your child that someone who has done something harmful to kids has moved into your area.
  2. Because of this, your child can only venture out into their neighborhood either with a group of friends or under adult supervision –– never alone.
  3. If they ask about details of what the offender did, simply say they did something inappropriate to hurt a child.
  4. Remember to remind your child that most people in this world do care about kids, but there are also those that do have harmful intentions towards kids.
  5. Make sure your child is aware of the address of the house to avoid. If there is a photo of the individual available, share that with your child as well so they can recognize the offender.
  6. Be open to any questions they have and let them know they can come to you to talk about this matter at any time.
  7. Some young children may not comprehend the subject matter or understand its importance. Tell them to take the situation seriously, and reassure them that you are trying to protect them, not just scare them

Understanding "Bad Strangers"

Should your child ever become separated from you away from home and have no other option than to ask an adult for help, make sure they can identify someone who is less likely to present a danger to them, even if they don't know the individual personally.

  1. While there are some strangers who hurt kids, explain to your child that these strangers will usually try to get kids far away from any other people before they do anything harmful.
  2. If your children are ever in a situation where they need to ask for help from people they don't know, there are ways that they can recognize who is less likely to be a "bad stranger".
  3. Teach them to look for moms with kids, uninformed police officers, security guards, or other low-risk adults who they can ask for emergency assistance.
  4. Help them memorize important information like your full name, home address, and telephone number so that they or a trustworthy adult can get contact you quickly.

"Stranger Danger" Online

Many kids, even very young ones, already own a cell phone. This makes them easily accessible to strangers anywhere. Whether your child plays online games, talks to other players in chat rooms, engages on social media, or sends texts to “friends”, they could be chatting with or being contacted by a child predator.

  1. The first thing you need to remind your kid is that everything posted on the internet (and even messages sent through their phone) could fall into the wrong hands and be used against them.
  2. Teach them to respect their bodies, and not to share any compromising photos of themselves or other kids. Remind them to not share any personal information online with those they do not know in real life.
  3. If they get a text or message online from a “stranger” or new “friend” that makes them feel uncomfortable or scared, they should immediately come to you so that you can take action.
  4. Conduct some “what-if” scenarios to help your child identify warning signs so that you can work together to prevent them from being lured into a bad situation.

Having these conversations does not make you overprotective or a “helicopter parent”. It doesn’t even mean you don’t trust your kid. Having these conversations could prevent the unthinkable by giving your children the tools they need to protect themselves.

For an added layer of security, download the OffenderWatch Family Safety App for iPhone or Android. The app allows you to track your kids in real time, locate registered sex offenders near your family, and receive alerts if your child is contacted by a registered sex offender through call, text, or email.

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