In a world that seems more and more dangerous everyday, parents are the first to worry about the safety of their child. Threats come in many guises with common worries spanning the gamut from the real world to the digital environment. But one of the big fears parents have is the risk of their child being abducted by a stranger. And they are justified in their concerns – in India 60,000 children are abducted each year, in the US there are 800,000 missing persons reports each year and 90% are for children. Similarly high figures exist throughout all the regions of the world. No longer should you teach your children stranger-danger because it can have a negative effect on them later in life. Instead, take a look through this helpful guide and you will discover some excellent tips to help protect your child from abduction …
Anyone not well-known to your family is classed as a stranger. But often when you talk to children about who a stranger is, you will discover that their interpretation of the word is incredibly different. In most children’s minds a stranger is a bad person who looks scary like a cartoon villain. It is dangerous for children to think like this. It can have a big impact on their future ability to interact with new acquaintances and it can also reduce their willingness to ask for help. When you talk to your children about strangers you need to explain that it is impossible to tell if a stranger is nice or not just by looking at them. But you should not make it seem like all strangers are bad, you can explain the concept of safe strangers.
These are strangers that it is safe for your child to speak to and ask for help if they need to. Police officers, store assistants with name badges, postmen, teachers, librarians and firefighters; are all great examples that demonstrate the kind of people that are considered safe strangers. But you need to emphasise that these adults should still be approached in a public space. This can greatly increase their overall security and safety because most public places have some form of CCTV and this can greatly help police if the worst does happen. Next time you’re out with your child show them safe strangers. Point these trustworthy pillars of the community out to them. And turn it into a game by asking them to identify some of these people for themselves.
Teaching your child about dangerous situations and highlighting some of the warning signs of suspicious behaviour will really help them avoid such risks. The majority of child abductions are actually not committed by strangers but are done by family, parent’s friends and acquaintances. Teaching them about situations can help keep them safe from all these different risks. The warning signs of an adult acting suspiciously are quite easy to pass on. If an adult is asking them to do something different to what you say, asking them to lie or keep a secret – these are a sure-fire sign that the adult is potentially up to no good. Talk through these different scenarios with them and try to test them on different situations by asking questions about how they will react.
It’s great to talk through the warning signs of a dangerous situation but if you fail to discuss how your child should react then it is ultimately useless. “No, Go, Yell, Tell” is the simplest way of helping your child cope and survive a dangerous situation. You have to start off by teaching them that in these situations it is entirely acceptable to say no to an adult. You should also explain that they need to run away and tell an appropriate adult as soon as possible. You can demonstrate who would be appropriate by discussing safe strangers and highlighting people your children know. Just like when teaching them to recognise danger, discussing their reactions to these situations is the best way of imprinting it onto their memory. Here are some example scenarios you can discuss with them.
Talking through these scenarios will not only reinforce what you have been teaching your child, it will also reassure you that your child knows exactly what they should do in dangerous situations.
As well as teaching them the important points already made. There are several other things you can do as a parent to ensure that they are safe from abduction.
Safety in numbers is a fact. Your child will be less likely to be abducted if they are with a group of friends. So always suggest they play with friends. And try and find out who these other children are and meet their parents. That way if they do go missing you have someone to check in with and find out exactly what they were up to.
Create a rule that they must ask permission to go anywhere. And make them tell you exactly where they are going to go. There are some nifty tracking tools that you can use to monitor where they are. Some are based on mobile phones but you can also get some wearable technology that performs this function.
They should definitely know how to contact the police if they ever get lost or a stranger does take them. It may also be worth teaching them your numbers so they can contact you if they need to. They may not be able to learn your number off by heart but you could put it on a card along with other numbers they can call in an emergency. This will at least put your mind at rest that should something bad ever happen they at least know how to contact a responsible adult.
Point out locations that they can meet you if they do get lost or in trouble – make sure these are public spaces. This way if they do get lost you have somewhere where you can check for them first. A lot of children get lost in shopping malls, theme parks and similar places. Locating safe spots in these locations will also help you find them if they do wander off.
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Read our blog on Keeping Children Safe Online
Tags: Child Safety, Stranger Danger, Predators, Parents Guide, Grooming.