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Understand What to Do About Stranger Danger

Children Need to Know Someone They Don’t Know Can Be Dangerous

It’s important to know what to do about stranger danger. Children can usually identify safe strangers, like police officers, who they can go to if they need help. Sometimes it’s hard for children to understand stranger danger if the person appears to be friendly or speaks kindly. It’s important they understand that someone they don’t know can be dangerous, regardless of how the stranger speaks or behaves.

According to the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, approximately eight million children are reported missing each year worldwide. The United States Department of Justice reports that, of those eight million children, 800,000 U.S. kids go missing stateside annually. Children can help prevent stranger danger and abductions this summer by:

  • Maintaining full awareness of their surroundings
  • Paying attention to their gut feelings
  • Remembering to say no to rides from someone they don’t know
  • Trying to play with a buddy at all times

If Possible, Kids Should Play with a Buddy for Safety Against Strangers

When playing during the summer, whether outside or someplace new, kids need to be especially careful of stranger danger. Stranger danger safety works even better when kids have the help of their friends. We recommend children play with a buddy and create a ‘buddy system.’:

Creating a Buddy System

Make sure children always go to playgrounds and outside in pairs or groups and always stay together. Encourage them not to do anything alone but, instead, to play with a buddy or two. Teach them to remain in each other’s sights and to ensure they don’t walk off alone nor talk to strangers. Make sure they know to alert each other to potential danger. Help them identify safe adults, like police officers, to whom they can go if in danger.

No Matter What Strangers Say to Them, Children Need to Say No to Rides

If the child won’t play with a buddy, teach him or her how to respond to strangers when playing alone. The most important point to make is he or she needs to say no to rides from strangers. Unless children know about prior transportation arrangements, they automatically say no to rides no matter what a stranger alleges. We highly recommend coming up with a family code word or phrase. An adult sent to pick up a child must use the code word or phrase when prompted. The child will know it’s safe to go with that adult if the code word or phrase is correct.

Kids Avoid Stranger Danger with Surrounding and Behavior Awareness

When children play, often they get so entrenched in it they aren’t aware of what’s going on around them. To avoid being caught off guard by a stranger, kids need to develop awareness of their surroundings. Besides awareness, they should also learn to recognize acceptable versus questionable adult behavior.

Understand Acceptable Versus Questionable Adult Behavior 

Children and adult interactions should make children feel comfortable and safe. Conversations need to be appropriate for the children’s ages, developmental levels, maturity levels, and required care. Examples of questionable adult behaviors include:

  • Sharing personal or private information or activities normally done with adults.
  • Tickling, wrestling with, or showing affection even when the child doesn’t want physical contact or attention.
  • Using teasing or belittling language to prevent a child from setting a boundary.

Learn How to Teach Awareness

One way to teach children awareness is through the memory game “What Doesn’t Belong.” This game serves to improve a child’s ability to notice differences in the surroundings. Wherever children like to play, have them spend one to three minutes observing the area. Then, have the children leave the area and write down as many details as they can remember.

While they’re writing down the details, add something to the area or take something away. The children then enter the area again for one minute. At the end of that minute, they write down what differences they noticed. After playing this game a few times, explain to the children why it’s important to notice differences in their surroundings. Advise them that if something ever seems out of place, they should pay attention to their gut feelings.

Trusting Their Gut Feelings Helps Children Stay Safe from Strangers

According to the Academy of Intuition Medicine, children are born with fully developed intuition, or gut feelings.  In most cases, gut feelings or instincts about situations are accurate. If children have a bad gut feeling about a place or person, that’s good—they should trust that. It’s better that a child be safe and overly cautious than not.

At Little Wiggles & Giggles Learning Center, we take care of children in the winter and all year long. For more information about our childcare services, call us at (570) 208-9125. Like us on Facebook and follow us for updates. We’d be happy to explain what to do about stranger danger.