Simply telling your children not to talk to strangers isn't enough anymore. Even family acquaintances and other familiar faces are threats to our children. It's important to properly teach children stranger danger so they know how to react if they are ever in the situation of facing a threatening individual. Teaching stranger danger to our children needs to begin at an early age with frequent open discussions.
The Ugly TruthAccording to the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC), approximately 90% of kidnapping cases in the United States involve children under the age of 18. This creates an alarming average of 2,100 missing children reported everyday. While most of these aren't televised and some end with the children found at a friend's house, the number is still a cause for concern.
Kidnappings aren't only caused by strangers, but by family, friends, and acquaintances as well. According to the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention, 49% of kidnappings are a result of family members, while 27% of kidnappings are from family acquaintances. Only 24% of kidnappings involve strangers. Men aren't the only people to kidnap children either. 43% of kidnappings are a result of female predators. This means our children need to be aware that both men and women can harm them.
Teaching Stranger Danger
While stranger danger's often a scary subject, it doesn't have to be. It's important to begin teaching stranger danger at a young age and keep the lines of communication open. It's vital your child knows how to react if they feel threatened by someone. There are four simple steps your child must know to reduce their chances of being kidnapped.
Children need to know when they are approached by a stranger or even someone that makes them feel uncomfortable to RUN! If your child doesn't feel comfortable with a person, it's ok for them to run away and run fast. Even if the person turns out not to be a threat, it may come off as rude, but better safe than sorry. Your child needs to know if they feel threatened to turn and run as fast as they can to anywhere there are people.
Cause a Ruckus
If your child feels threatened by an individual they need to cause as big of ruckus as they possibly can. This means screaming, kicking, fighting, biting, anything and everything they can do to cause someone to take notice about what's going on. It's advised children scream "Stranger Danger" when threatened by an adult, continue screaming, and run. Causing a commotion is likely to frighten the suspected kidnapper, causing them to retreat.
Keeping the Distance
When approached by an adult, even one that seems ok, children need to know to keep their distance. Children shouldn't be within arms length of the individual because this makes them easier to grab. Instill the importance of your child backing away from an individual to keep the distance between them. If the adult continues to close the distance between themselves and the child, this needs to be an indicator to your child to run away.
While we teach our children from a young age it's not okay to fight or hit, this is one time where they must. Our children need to be perfectly aware if they are in the situation where some one's trying to kidnap them, to hit, punch, kick, and bite-- anything they can possibly to to defend themselves and to ward off the kidnapper. They must never give up and fight to escape as long as they possibly can.
Personal Stranger Danger TipsStranger Danger isn't a topic that you cover just once. It's something you go over time and time again. In addition to the above tips, here are some ways we discuss stranger danger in my house:
- Make it Fun-- While kidnappings are no laughing matter, we make the discussions fun by having the kids tell us what they would do in a situation where someone approached them. After a few serious answers, it usually turns into silly responses, but I know the fun of it make the core message stick.
- Practice-- We've practiced with our children and have them show how they would respond. It's a fun way to teach them different self defense moves...although it usually just turns into a tickle fight.
- Don't Go Anywhere-- We teach our children not to go anywhere with anyone without asking our permission first. It doesn't matter if it's grandma or a family friend, you don't get in anyone's car or go any where without asking us first.
- Always have a Buddy-- We use the buddy system a lot around here. We teach our children safety in numbers. No matter if they are walking home from school or going to a friend's house, always have a buddy with you.
- Talk, Talk, Talk-- Discuss stranger danger often. We like to bring it up every few months to help the younger children understand more than they did the previous discussion. Plus, it's a good refresher for the older kids.