Protecting Your Children
You want to equip your child with the knowledge and strategies they will need to protect themselves in dangerous situations. Also, keep your child’s age and maturity level in mind and base lessons upon that. Again, stranger danger lessons should be ongoing – adapt the conversation as your child grows as he/she is likely to encounter different types of situations.
First and foremost, children need to understand what you mean by stranger. Not all people unknown to them are necessarily dangerous – they need to understand the difference between “good” and “bad” strangers; an overly simplistic dichotomy, but one that puts the issue in terms a child can understand. This is important so children understand where and to whom to turn if they are ever lost or feel scared, threatened, or if they think someone may be following them. Examples of “good” strangers may include police officers, security guards, teachers, store clerks, etc. These are all examples of people to turn to if when your child needs help.
On the other hand, in many situations where your child may be approached by a “bad” stranger – the park, residential street, etc – those easily identifiable people may not be around. Your child should know that there really are many more “good” people, than “bad. If they are approached by a “bad” stranger who tries to lure or physically pull them away, the best thing they can do is get the attention of other adults – whether that is by running to the nearest home, or making enough noise to be heard by someone, the vast majority of adults will help a child in danger.
Tips and strategies.
The following are important tips and strategies for children to protect themselves:
- Know your name, address, and phone number.
- Use the buddy system – avoid walking anywhere alone.
- Trust your instincts – if you feel you are being followed or something is not right, seek help immediately.
- If a stranger approaches you, you do not have to speak to him or her. Never approach a stranger in a motor vehicle. Just keep walking. Do not accept candy or any other items from a stranger. Never walk off with a stranger no matter what he or she tells you.
- If someone is following you try to remember the license plate of his or her vehicle and immediately tell a trusted adult.
- If a stranger grabs you, do everything you can to stop him or her from pulling you away or dragging you into his or her car. Drop to the ground, kick, hit, bite, and scream. Do whatever it takes to attract the attention of others who can help you. If someone is dragging you away, scream, “this is not my dad,” or “this is not my mom.”
While sharing the above tips with your child is extremely important, the best way to teach stranger danger lessons is through role-playing scenarios. Check back soon for our page on role playing scenarios.
…On The Internet
- Parents should always monitor children’s email, chat room conversations, and the websites they visit. Consider investing in software that can monitor children’s web surfing and block objectionable words, images, and/or sites. Encourage use of “kid-friendly” search engines.
- Children should never give out identifying information, such as name, address, phone number, school, etc over the internet.
- Younger children will be tempted to “sign-up” to join clubs. Many of these sites are legitimate and can be educational and/or entertaining, but will likely ask for personal information. Children should only join clubs, list servs, etc with parental approval and oversight.
- Do not open emails from unknown senders; delete them immediately. Such emails may be spam. Even worse, they could be “viruses” which can be very harmful to your computer.
- Never respond to surveys, contests, or special offers.
- Children should share their passwords with parents, but NO ONE else.
- Older kids will be interested in chat rooms, message board, and networking/personal blogging sites (i.e. myspace, bebo, xanga, etc). If you allow your children to utilize these sites, they should keep their profiles “private,” only approve “friends” and/or chat with people they know in the real world, and be extremely careful with the kind of information they post. Children need to understand that seemingly harmless information can often be dangerous when in the wrong hands. In addition to the above listed identifying information, children should not post information about where they are, where they are going, when they are at certain places, etc. Be careful of posting information to “friend’s sites as well. Parents should routinely review their children’s sites and their children’s “friend’s” sites to ensure information of this type is not inadvertently posted.
- If a child does not follow the above internet safety rules, and does begin communicating with someone they do not personally know, NEVER respond to requests for personal information, NEVER respond to obscene, suggestive, or threatening messages, and NEVER agree to a request to meet in person. Tell a parent or trusted adult immediately if any of these requests or messages is made.
- If your child receives requests to meet someone off line, save the communications as evidence, and report these incidents to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline.
- Parents should report any incidents that could place their child at risk of harm to the authorities.