Teaching Kids About Kidnapping and Stranger Safety

Stranger giving a girl a stuffed animal
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Parents and caregivers can help children avoid the risk of being abducted with stranger danger tips. Not a week goes by without a news report of a kidnapping, molestation or missing child. A parent's worst nightmare can be minimized by properly educating children about "stranger danger." 

How Children Should Respond When Strangers Approach

To lower their risk of being kidnapped or harmed, children should travel with groups of friends when bike riding or heading to or from school or other destinations. Teach children to say no and run if a stranger offers them a ride. Adults need to define what "stranger" means. 

Tell children that if someone follows on foot to run as fast as possible. Run to someone's house or to other people. Likewise, if someone follows them by car, teach them to run in the opposite direction or take a path where a car would not go.

Children should be taught not to leave school activities with someone who makes them feel uncomfortable. Parents should take measures to prevent children from being stranded or left alone at a school event or other activity. Parents should also tell children that some strangers might approach to say that there's been a family emergency. Teach the child to always verify this information with parents or other trusted adults and never to take off with the stranger.

Actions Adults Can Take

Grown-ups should establish "safe houses" where kids feel comfortable knocking on the door any time a situation warrants it. Be sure to get approval from the neighbors before designating a home as a "safe house." If possible, have a neighborhood safety tip meeting to discuss plans for a safe house.

Parents should not become lax about allowing kids to walk alone to a friend's home in the neighborhood, even if it is only a few doors away. Kidnappings can happen in an instant, sometimes under a parent's watchful eye. Older youth should be instructed to call when they arrive at a friend's home for peace of mind and as a good safety tip practice.

Never let kids play out in the front yard alone without direct supervision by an adult. This provides too many opportunities for kidnappers or mishaps. A backyard is a much safer and private option. Adults should also greet youngsters as they get off a school bus and not have them walk home alone, if possible.

Adults should understand that boys and girls are equally at risk. It is a common misconception that child predators are typically men seeking girls. Molesters come in all ages and both genders, and their victims can be of either sex.

Avoid Publicizing Children's Names

Parents should be cautious about the blatant use of a child's name on a backpack or jacket. Kids sometimes believe that a person can't be a stranger if they know them by name when the reality is that their name was easily readable on their attire or the individual heard a youngster's name mentioned.

Wrapping Up

Parents should begin reinforcing these safety tips as soon as a kid is old enough to understand them. They should ensure that their child feels comfortable discussing these issues, their concerns or fears or any questionable events that have already transpired. Awareness of these safety tips can help kids be less susceptible to stranger dangers.

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Article Sources

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  1. Riby DM, Kirk H, Hanley M, Riby LM. Stranger danger awareness in Williams syndrome. J Intellect Disabil Res. 2014;58(6):572-82. doi:10.1111/jir.12055