More Than "Stranger Danger": 5 Tips To Teach Children How To Protect Themselves From Predators

Date August 2, 2018

Many parents teach their children about the concept of “stranger danger” once they are old enough to walk and talk. Children are often told not to talk to strangers, as they may harbor ill intent and cause harm. Of course, good parents will do anything to keep their little ones safe, but a number of psychologists and other experts have argued that this whole “stranger danger” concept should be redefined, and we should teach kids about dangerous situations, not dangerous people.

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The official statistics calls the “stranger danger” idea into question. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), 466,949 people under age 18 were reported missing in 2014. A large portion of these cases were family abductions and other situations in which children were taken away by someone they know. /

We need to move away from the outdated “stranger danger” concept, psychologists argue. To keep children safe and prevent them from being abducted and/or abused, parents may use the following tips to help their kids understand how to act in potentially dangerous situations.

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1. Explain when they actually should turn to strangers for help

If a child needs help (say, he or she got lost) and no one they know is around, the child needs to know who they can talk to, such as uniformed security officers and law enforcement officers, store clerks wearing name tags, or parents with children. To make sure your child understands what to do, you can take them to a public place, such as a mall, and ask your little one who he or she would approach.

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2. Teach your child to always tell you about situations and behaviors of others that make them uncomfortable

We hate to admit it, but sometimes, people who our children know and trust (say, their nanny, teacher, or relative) can harm them. If such a person is on good terms with children’s parents/guardians, they may be too afraid to speak out. Explain to your child that if someone or something makes them uncomfortable, you’re the first person they should speak to about it. /

3. Make sure they understand they are “the masters of their bodies”

Children as young as 2 years old can be taught about their “private parts” and that no one, even people they know, should touch them without their consent.

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4. Give them specific details to use

Abbie Schiller, CEO of The Mother Company and the producer of The Safety Show, told CafeMom that a child aged 3 or 4 already needs to know his or her parents’ names (and the family name). Also, it’s the right time to start memorizing mom and dad’s phone numbers.

Schiller added:

And insist that they 'check first' with you before they go anywhere with anyone. Don’t think of this as a conversation, but rather as an ongoing dialogue about smart choices and solutions.

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5. Use role play to see if they know how to act

Role-play can help children be more prepared for the real situation and help them recall what they are supposed to do.

Teaching your children how to protect themselves from predators and dangerous situations in general will help them immensely later in life. Start doing it when they are still young, and make sure they really get your message.

Source: CafeMom, Kid Smartz, NCMEC

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Children Tips