Personal Safety Program Teaches Kids to Protect Themselves from Tricky People

CBC interview. - tricky peopleOakville-based SOS 4 Kids has developed a new program that equips children aged 7 – 10 with skills to prevent, to identify and to respond to potentially dangerous situations. My Safe Life – Personal Safety for Kids helps children recognize inappropriate behaviours, when to speak up and how to seek help if they feel uncomfortable or threatened.  The program is offered by the Town of Oakville on PA days and March Break and by municipal departments of Parks and Recreation across Canada starting spring 2016.

For years, parents have focused on telling their kids not to talk to strangers, but this message is not complete, says SOS 4 Kids.  The better safety message for kids to remember is “don’t go anywhere with anyone without first getting permission from a parent or a person in charge.”  This makes people safety and self-protection easy for children to comprehend.

Most children and youth are abused by people they know.  According to Statistics Canada, only 12% of offences involving children are committed by strangers. The remaining cases are committed by either an acquaintance (44% of the time) or a family member (38% of cases).

Tricky people are predators who use deceptive techniques to groom a targeted child and to earn their trust and affection.  Kids need to know that a tricky person could be anyone:  a teacher, a coach, a parent, a family member, an older child….anyone.

Staying alert, being assertive and knowing where to go for help are a child’s best line of defense.


Who can a child trust?

Trust is built over time as children get to know someone.  They shouldn’t just trust a person because that person is an adult or someone they know. Trust has to be earned based on a person’s traits and actions.  A trustworthy person is reliable, honest and would never intentionally try to hurt them. However, when a person oversteps boundaries and does something sneaky or deceitful, they have crossed the line and trust is destroyed.

Children need to understand that it is not their fault if an adult behaves badly.  They should feel confident they can speak out and get help from a trusted adult.  A trusted adult can be a principal, a teacher, a parent, the police, child protection services, just to name a few.  Parents and caregivers can help kids figure out who the trusted adults are in their lives.

Teaching children to avoid strangers may compromise their safety because they may need to get help from a stranger one day.  Most strangers are good people and would never harm anyone.  Parents should talk about which strangers kids can go to if they need help, possibly if they get lost or an adult they are with becomes injured or ill.  “Safer strangers” are a mother with children, a store clerk, the police, a security guard, for example.

What are some of the inappropriate things that “tricky people” do?

  • They may ask a child to keep a secret.
  • They may give gifts and money.
  • They may ask kids for help when they should be asking another adult, like tracking down a lost pet.
  • They may try to spend lots of alone time with a child.
  • They may pay a lot of attention to a child.
  • They may use bribes, threats, physical abuse or blackmail to keep a child silent.
  • They may expose a child to adult-only content.

Children need to feel confident that they are entitled to be safe and that all adults are responsible for protecting them.  Parents should get to know the people who are spending time with their kids, like coaches and babysitters, and they should listen and take action when children say they have a safety problem or an emergency.

My Safe Life – Personal Safety for Kids is a comprehensive and engaging safety program covering people safety, online safety, road safety, fire safety, injury prevention and first aid.  For more information about safety courses for kids visit