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Scrap Stranger Danger

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I'm going to talk this week (actually, it might turn into a bit of a rant) about stranger danger.

I think it is the worst thing to come down the personal safety pike in a very long time. First, it's bad because it doesn't work. Second, it's bad because it gives parents a false sense of security that it does work.

I've talked to lots of kids and child victims over the year and I know first-hand, they don't get strangers or the dangers that comes with them. Telling a kid to not talk to strangers is no more helpful than saying; don't jump in the water, when they are already in the pool.

When a child is told about strangers, they envision some kind of scary monster, but, child predators are often good looking, nicely dressed, friendly and kind.

I have done a number of stories where we use a officer wearing plain clothes, who makes small talk with a child for a couple of seconds, then convinces the child to leave a crowded playground and walk to a parking lot with him alone. (We do this with the parents watching and with their permission)

When one of the mothers asked her little boy why he went with a stranger, after she had just talked to him the week before about strangers, he said, "He's not a stranger, he's my friend." Strangers become friends when they talk about puppies or candy or money or you name it.

I think all parents and schools should stop teaching stranger danger immediately. I think they should instead be teaching situations or scenarios.

They should be asking kids, "what if" questions. What if someone asked you to help look for puppy or kitty? What if someone told you they work with mommy and she was hurt and they going to take you to the hospital to see her? What if someone wanted to take their picture for a calendar or poster? What if someone asked you to show your privates to them? What if someone wanted to give you money or candy? Then, give kids the answers  to those situations, which is largely the same... tell them you need to ask your mom or dad first, don't go with them, run away, scream, tell mommy, daddy, grandma or teacher, etc.

That is useful information that kids can grasp. They need to be told that some of the people who might want to do bad things, don't look or act or sound like bad people. Some people worry you can cover every single scenario with kids, which is true, but, you can cover enough to give them the basic rules.

A brother and sister playing at the same park as the other little boy, immediately ran to their mother and asked her if they could go help the man look for his puppy. That was great training that would save them had it not been a test.

I know it's a delicate balance between educating a child and scaring them, but, I think scenario training gives information and information can be very empowering.

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