For years, parents, schools and churches taught kids about ‘Stranger Danger’ in order to keep them safe. But now experts say that's the wrong approach and have a new suggestion.
To test the commonly taught process of ‘Stranger Danger’ we decided to run an experiment, with the help of Tulsa Police Officer Matt Arnold, to see how many kids would walk away with a stranger.
Before we did our experiment, we asked all the parents for permission. They agreed, and all said their kid wouldn’t go.
Arnold: "I lost my dog. Can you help me look for him?"
Arnold: "Alright, c'mere bud, let's go look for him."
Sarah said she was “totally shocked.” She never thought her little boy would go off with a man he didn't know, for something as simple as a lost puppy.
"That was crazy. I thought, actually, like, an older man with glasses on, that would scare him," she said.
But the same thing happened over and over.
Arnold: "I'm looking for my dog. Can you help me look for him? C'mere. I think he's over here."
As Elijah walked away with a person he had never seen before, his mother Mickie’s heart did a free-fall.
“Oh, it dropped. I wanted to say, ‘what are you doing,"’ she said.
They teach stranger danger at school and at home, and she thought it would keep her kids safe.
It surprised even our officer, so we tried again to see if we would get a different result.
Arnold: "Hey buddy, I lost a dog, can you help me look for him?
Child: “Aw, yeah.”
Arnold: “Come over here. I think it went this way, down here by the creek maybe, right over here."
Even though Ryken’s mother, Crissy, knew it was just an experiment, it scared her how easily her child could be enticed by a stranger.
Crissy: "How come you went with him?"
Ryken: "I don't know."
Lori: "You wanted to find the puppy?"
One father and grandmother said they thought the younger boy might go, but never the older; but, of course, it was just the opposite.
Lori: "Were you surprised?"
Lori: "So tell me why you went with him?"
Child: "I wanted to help find his dog."
Debra, one of the child’s grandmother, said, "Even though you think, all you tell them, all the training at school, it could still happen to him."
Stranger danger doesn't work, because kids think a stranger is a big, bad scary person, but that’s not always the case.
It also doesn't work because, many times, the person is not a stranger but someone they know.
We only had one child do the right thing.
Arnold: "Hey buddy, I lost my dog, can you help me find him? This is what he looks like."
Child: "No, I want to ask my parents."
Arnold: "You want to ask your parents? Probably a good idea."
We didn't want to scare the kids, so, afterwards, we showed them all the stranger was really a police officer and talked to them about safety.
Experts say, instead of ‘Stranger Danger,’ teach kids situations and run through ‘what if’ scenarios based on their age.
‘What would you do if someone wants you to search for a lost pet?’ Always get permission first. ‘What would you do if someone touches you where your swimsuit covers?’ Always tell someone you know.
Experts say, by teaching this way, your kids are prepared to react no matter if the person approaching them is a stranger or someone they know.