“Stranger danger”. This is a phrase that we use to teach our children that strangers can equal danger. As parents and guardians, we want children to understand that it is not okay to talk to strangers, leave with strangers, or accept items from strangers. A child is abducted or missing every 40 seconds in the United States. It is a horrifying thought and feeling to think that another adult with bad intentions could potentially abduct or try to harm your child.
According to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), over 32,000 children were kidnapped or missing in 2017. In order to prevent an abduction happening to one of our children, we must take certain precautions. In addition to us as parents making changes, it also includes teaching children about stranger danger and that there are things they can do as well to help ensure their safety.
READ MORE: Teaching Your Child About Stranger Danger
Stranger Danger Tips
When a child hears an adult call them by name, they may assume that they know them personally even if they don’t recognize them or ever remember meeting them. They may not think that the only reason this person knows their name is because it is embroidered in bright, bold letters on their backpack or lunchbox. If your child walks to or from school on a regular basis, or goes to a public park or playgrounds, skip out on personalizing their bags. You don’t want to give a stranger danger the opportunity to recognize a unique backpack and learn your child’s name or try to convince the child that they know them just because they know what their name is.
2Have a Code Word
Many of you may already have heard of or already use this trick, but it is one every family should adopt. The purpose of a code word is to allow your child to know that a person who knows the code word is safe and trustworthy. Create a unique code word that your child must learn and memorize to use in certain situations. Teach your children that they are to never go with someone that does not first give them the correct code word.
Choose a code word that is not easy or obvious but also not too complicated and possibly easily forgotten. If you as a parent or guardian are planning to have someone that does not normally pick up your child give them the code word to tell your child so they know that they are allowed to go with that person.
3Run in the Opposite Direction
This one seems self-explanatory; however, as parents we drill into children not to run away from us or out of our sight. However, let your children know that if they are ever encountered by a stranger or someone that is scaring them or making them feel uncomfortable to run away from them in the opposite direction while yelling.
4Cause a Scene
This is the time that all parents are more than okay with their children causing a scene. Tell your children if they are ever in a situation where someone that they do not know is trying to take them or make them do something they do not want to do, they should do whatever they can to bring attention towards them. This means screaming, hitting, kicking, wailing, crying, and whatever else they need to do to cause a scene.
5Look for a Mom
If you or your child’s guardian is not around and your kid finds themselves in a situation where they are being pursued by a stranger, tell your children to look for anyone that looks like a mom. Women sometimes seem more approachable to children and although they are technically strangers as well, they will most likely be able to give them the comfort and protection they need in that moment until they are reunited with their parent.
6Adults Don’t Need Help from Kids
Educate your kids that adults do not need a child’s help. Even if they seem sad or say their puppy is lost, there is not much of a solution that a young child can offer to remedy the situation. If your child is faced with a stranger asking them for help, tell them to never provide their assistance. Instead tell them to get away from the person and immediately find their parent.
7Learn How to Call 911
Each child old enough to operate a phone should know how to call 911. Test them constantly on what the phone number is that they need to call in an emergency.
READ MORE: How to Avoid Misusing and Abusing 911
8Memorize Parent’s Info
Once your child is old enough to memorize, they must learn important information that they may need in an emergency. Teach them the names of their parents, their home address, their phone number and any other important information they should know.
9Remember Clothing Description
If your child experiences an attempted abduction teach them to remember every detail they can about the person who tried to lure them or take them. Their first priority should be to get as far away from the individual as possible and get to a safe place but if they can, it would be extremely helpful to the police officers investigating the incident if they could provide a description.
They should first look at physical characteristics about the person such as their gender, skin color, age range, height, weight, hair color, eye color and any tattoos or scars. They should next pay attention to what they are wearing.
Ask them to take note of the color of their shirt, if they we wearing pants or shorts, if they had on a hat, and what kind of shoes they were wearing. They should also try to remember the make, model, and color of the vehicle they were driving if they observed them in a car. Additionally, ask them what direction the car left in so law enforcement have some information to work off of.
10Don’t Answer the Door
Oftentimes children are excited when they hear a knock at the door and want to run and see who it is. We must teach children that unless they are given permission by their parents to open the door, they must never answer the door in their house especially if they do not recognize who is on the other side. Tell your child that only an adult can answer the door.
11Never Take Shortcuts
If you allow your child to walk certain places such as school, a friend’s house, or a nearby playground that they must always stick to their designated route. Explain to them that they are not allowed to ever take shortcuts when walking to or from home.
READ MORE: Creating a Safe Neighborhood
12Do Not Take Anything
If your child is offered something such as money, toys, or candy, they must understand that they should never take it from a stranger. Children are easily tempted by these things, especially if it is something that they do not often get; however, teach children that they must never accept anything from someone that they do not know.
13Show Badge or ID
When we teach children about stranger danger, we teach them that there are bad strangers and good strangers and that adults such as police officers and firefighters are the good kind of strangers. If your child is separated from you and needs the assistance of one of these good strangers or if they are ever approached by a police officer they should verify that they are who they say they are. Anyone can get a costume and dress as someone who children have been taught to trust so tell your children to ask to see a badge or ID.
Our children’s safety is a top priority and we never want anything bad to happen to them. The world can be a scary place and we have to constantly be on guard to make sure our children will never be taken away from us. Teaching children about stranger danger is so important and can prevent horrible outcomes.
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Sources: Child Abduction Statistics for Parents, 2017 NCIC Missing Person and Unidentified Person Statistics