Many of the people your child will encounter on a daily basis will be strangers, especially if they take public transportation to and from school, or have to traverse public spaces. Therefore, it is important for parents to teach their children about strangers and how to deal with them in various situations.
In keeping with the theme for Child Month 2015, ‘Children Safety and Security – Our Priority,’ we have found some tips to help you have these conversations with your child, from US-based National Crime Prevention Council.
- Who is a stranger? This is simply someone your child does not know. It may be someone he or she is seeing for the first time, or someone he or she has seen before but doesn’t know well. Also, don’t lead your child to think that he/she can tell who is a ‘bad stranger’ based on how the person looks or dresses.
- ‘Safe strangers.’ Safe strangers are people children can ask for help if they need it. Examples of these are uniformed personnel (police officers, firemen, soldiers) and can extend to others like teachers and librarians. Also, teach the little ones where these people might be found – point out police stations, libraries, etc to them and let them know to go there for help.
- Instincts. It is important for children to learn that if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable, even if they know the person in question, they should get away as fast as they can and tell an adult. Reassure children that you will help them when they need it.
- It’s OK to say no. Make sure your child knows that it’s okay to say no to an adult, especially if they feel scared or threatened in any way, and to run away from adults in potentially dangerous situations.
- Stranger danger. Talk to your child about various situations he/she might encounter with strangers or even known adults who may not have good intentions. Some scenarios include:
- A stranger asks if he/she wants a ride home from school
- He/she is being followed
- An adult he/she knows says or does something that makes him/her feel bad or uncomfortable
- A car pulls over and a stranger asks for directions.
Help children recognise the warning signs of suspicious behavior, even if they are familiar with the person and that person addresses them by name. Teach them to find a trusted adult (parent, teacher, etc) right away in any of these situations, or if another adult or even older child/teenager asks them to disobey their parents or do something without permission or asks them to keep a secret. Also tell your children that an adult should never ask a child for help, and if one does ask for their help.
A word on online safety. Children who are old enough to use the computer, cell phones or tablets to access the internet must also learn not to engage with strangers online. Younger children should not join chat rooms or forums of any kind and teens must be taught not to divulge pictures and personal information (real name, age, address, phone number, email address) that could potentially be used to invite danger into their homes. Additionally, they must never, under any circumstance, arrange to meet someone they ‘met’ online. Whatever your child’s age, monitor his/her internet usage as much as possible.