Talking to kids about stranger and “not-so-stranger danger”
It’s easier for children to understand “stranger danger” than it is to understand “not-so-stranger danger”. A stranger is someone they don’t know. We, as parents, are constantly reminding our kids not to talk to strangers or not to let a stranger in the house when adults aren’t home. This is an important message that needs to be repeated. But how do parents explain that an ill-intentioned person could be someone they know? This is what we call “not-so-stranger danger”.
Children talk to people they know all the time. We don’t want to frighten our children or discourage them from being social and friendly to adults.However, we do want our kids to understand that not everyone’s intentions on the surface are genuine. “Not-so-stranger danger” is about teaching children to be discerning by assessing whether things that adults say or do are appropriate or inappropriate. Children don’t need to decide if an adult is good or bad, but they do need to decide if an adult’s words or actions are inappropriate. Just like in school, children are expected to follow guidelines of appropriate social behaviour that include rules on touching and language. Adults are required to follow similar rules of acceptable behaviour.
Good, open communication is a parent’s frontline to helping kids understand these rules of behaviour for adults and what to do when an adult crosses the line and breaks one of these rules. Parents can talk to their children about people safety by creating a list of examples of potential situations that highlight good and bad adult behaviours. This will help children identify what is considered appropriate and what is inappropriate. When children learn to identify unacceptable behaviours, interior alarm bells should go off, alerting them that they need to tell a trusted adult as soon as possible. Remind kids to always pay attention to these alarm bells. This means that whenever actions by others make them feel uncomfortable, scared or simply confused, they are to tell a trusted adult,
Children need to be aware that Ill-intentioned people don’t necessarily look evil, dirty or bad. It’s not always a creepy, old guy. They can be male or female, of any race, profession or social status, and of any age. It could be a teacher, another parent, a cousin: anyone can have a hidden agenda, Predators are usually very “normal” looking, generous, friendly and appear genuine. Being friendly and building trust are part of a “grooming” process used by predators to make children feel comfortable with them. Computers give predators easy, undetected access to children. They often use online platforms commonly used by children to groom and desensitize their targeted victims.
Always know who your children’s online friends are and what services and websites they use.
Here are some RED FLAGS for parents and kids:
- Someone older than your child is trying to hang out with him or her, encouraging alone time online or in person.
- The child is spending a lot of time alone in her/his room with access to the internet.
- The child may quickly shut down or close the computer when someone comes near.
- Someone is giving the child gifts (often expensive), money or favors or doing anything that seems too good to be true.
- Someone coincidentally has most of the same interests and hobbies as the child.
- Someone is frequently touching, hugging, or tickling the child.
- Someone is telling the child not to tell parents or to keep a secret from them.
Children need to know that they can talk about any concern or worry they have to parents/guardians or trusted adults whenever needed. They should be encouraged to talk about any situation where they feel afraid, confused or uncomfortable.
6 People Safety Rules to Remind Children Often.
NEVER GO WITH ANYONE YOU DON’T KNOW! Children don’t have to decide if someone is good or bad. Don’t go with anyone you don’t know. Period.
ADULTS SHOULD GET OTHER ADULTS TO HELP THEM. If an adult needs help with directions or looking for a lost pet, they should ask another adult for assistance, not a child.
IT’S OK TO IGNORE STRANGERS AND ADULTS WHO SHOW INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOURS! This is not considered rude. It is a safety rule.
USE A FAMILY CODE WORD. A family code word can be used by someone your parent sends to pick you up. Refuse to go with anyone who can’t give you the code word. Don’t share the code word with anyone outside of the family.
STAY FIVE STEPS BACK! If a person in a vehicle stops to talk, stay five steps back. Stay out of arms reach and never go into the vehicle.
SCREAM, YELL, KICK, RUN! If someone’s actions or words make you feel unsafe, make the biggest scene possible and draw attention to yourself.