After a recent investigation found children were happy to walk off with a friendly stranger after only 90 seconds of persuasion, it could not be more important for mums to make children aware of ‘stranger danger’. Here are some tips for addressing the issue with your child.
Start early: Talk to your kids about the issue of ‘stranger danger’ as soon as they can understand what you mean. Children begin to interact with the world around the age of three or four and this is when they become vulnerable to predators.
Highlight the seriousness: Sometimes parents are worried about scaring their children, but it’s important to make them aware of how serious the situation is. You don’t need to ask them to deal with adult issues such as paedophilia, but don’t be reluctant to tell them they could be hurt by a stranger.
A time for manners: We spend a lot of time encouraging children to be polite to people and this can confuse them when confronted by a stranger. Let them know they can say no, be rude or scream if they feel threatened by someone they don’t know.
Practice makes perfect: Telling your child what to do when approached by a suspicious stranger is not enough – they may forget what they should do or panic if it happens. Engage in some role playing with your child, walking them through different scenarios that could occur. They’ll feel more confident and are more likely to remember the right thing to do if they end up in a threatening situation.
Anyone could pose a danger: Remind your children that predators don't always look scary. A dangerous person could be very friendly or even have a puppy with them.
Friendly faces: One way to make sure your child doesn’t go off with the wrong person is to tell them the people they’re safe with. Give them a list of family members, close friends or good neighbours who you would be comfortable leaving your child with if you couldn’t be there.
Safe zones: In case your child gets lost, make sure they know who they can approach and where they should go. When you go out for walks or go into town, point out the areas they should go to if they’re lost. Encourage them to go into shops and approach till workers for help rather than stopping random strangers, even if they look friendly.