What is a Stranger? The Perception
We all teach our children to never talk to strangers, but do your children fully understand exactly what a stranger is? Your children most likely envision a stranger as someone who provokes a sense of fear upon sight. People with a kind-looking appearance, such as grandmotherly figures or well-dressed men, may not trigger every child's instincts to steer clear of people they do not know.
Show your children a series of photographs or create a slide show on your computer. Have them identify which individuals are strangers and which are trusted family members.
Include as many variations as possible of people they do not know.
Mix in photographs of close, trusted friends and family members your child knows well.
Use this exercise to emphasize the importance of understanding that any person they do not know is a stranger.
The Importance of Role Playing:
Now that your child recognizes a stranger and understands the different methods a predator uses to abduct, it’s time to practice.
Role playing potential abduction scenarios with your children is vital.
Be sure the role playing is not so overdone that it becomes more frightening than educational.
Reenact every possible scenario a predator may use to lure in a child. Be sure your child recognizes and demonstrates the appropriate response of how to get away.
Here are some response examples to teach your children:
1. Have them shout, “Help, this person is not my parent!”
2. Immediately run away from the stranger.
3. Find a trusted adult who can help you.
4. Kick, scream, scratch, bite and fight to get away if they put their hands on you.
Recognizing Danger: The Setup
Once your children can identify a stranger, it is important they also recognize how a predator operates.
Be sure they understand that a stranger should never ask a child they are not familiar with for help, and this is a clear sign of danger.
Here are some common scenarios you should teach your child to recognize, steer clear of, and report back to you.
“Want a piece of candy?”
Predators may attempt to gain a child's trust over time. It may begin with a simple "Hello," to read the child's reaction. This can later lead to friendly conversation and providing gifts to gain trust.
“Can you help me find my dog?”
We have all seen the lost pet scenario. A desperate looking subject holding a dog leash approaches a child asking for assistance with searching for a lost pet. The abductor then attempts to lure the child away from the public eye.
“Hurry up and get in. Your mother is in the hospital and your dad sent me to get you.”
No responsible parent would ever send an unfamiliar figure to retrieve their child, even under the worst possible circumstance. Yet this abduction method has proven effective in staged role playing scenarios.
Abduction by force
The most frightening of all abduction methods is when the abductor quickly grabs a child, forces them into a vehicle and quickly speeds away. Although this is the most high-risk method, many attempts have gone undetected because it's quick and there are no witnesses, due to careful planning.
Be sure your children always travel in highly visible public areas. Teach them to run, kick, scream and fight to get away if anyone tries to abduct them.
In the event that your child needs emergency services, make sure they can not only recite their address and phone number, but they should also be able to identify the street names and block numbers they travel on.
If they are not capable, they should not be traveling without parental supervision.
The Online Predator
Social networking websites have minimum age limitations for a reason. Predators often create fictitious profiles to befriend and eventually lure children to a meeting place.
Monitor all video games with chat capabilities.
It’s not cute or adorable that your child already has a social networking profile at age seven. It’s dangerous and irresponsible.
More Helpful Tips
“If you do not behave, I’m going to have the police officer over there take you to jail.”
Never under any circumstances should you use a police officer as a threatening figure to your child. This could later work against you if your child is in danger and a police officer is in the area, they will be afraid to seek help.
Be sure to keep communication lines open with your children. It should be very clear that they always need to come to you regardless of the circumstances, when they sense trouble.
Keep a watchful eye on your child's social networking and explain the importance of only allowing known friends access to their profiles.
Keep up to date photographs and fingerprint cards of your children readily available for law enforcement in the event they do go missing.
Be familiar with your children's bus routes. Make sure your children always walk the same route home so you can backtrack if they do not arrive when expected.
Be selective about who you entrust to keep your child without supervision. According to a National Institute of Justice report, 3 out of 4 adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well.
Are there any registered sex offenders living near you? Check the Office of The Attorney General’s Megan's Law web page.