Many parents worry about the safety of their children, whether on the way to or from school, in the park, or anywhere else where constant adult supervision is lacking. One of the biggest concerns for parents is teaching their children how to be properly wary of strangers when out in public places and engaging on online platforms to include social media and gaming. Going over rules of behavior for your child when outside or inside the home, whether or not they are being watched by a parent or some other responsible adult is one of the surest ways to avoid danger.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) reports 365,348 missing children were reported to law enforcement and entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center in 2020 – that’s 1,000 per day. While the NCMEC encourages us to stay away from the term, “stranger danger,” we know it’s a catchy phrase, especially since it rhymes, but there are three reasons why NCMEC says the phrase does not work well:
Children do not necessarily understand the concept of a “stranger.”
A child has greater odds of being harmed by someone he or she knows, perhaps even a family member, rather than a stranger.
If a child is lost or otherwise needs help away from home, he or she will likely need to talk to strangers to ask for assistance.
Some new terminology to use can be referring to strangers as “tricky people,” which refers to people both known or unknown who try to trick children in ways that are not safe. Another phrase that can empower children are using terms such as “kid smarts” or “people smarts”. When parents encourage the development of their child’s “people smarts” skills they are trusting that their child has the capacity to understand the intentions, motivations, personalities and the desires of other people. People smarts is also understanding peer pressure and propaganda, as well as understanding the many influences of our society.
KidSmartz is a child safety program provided by NCMEC that educates families about preventing abduction and empowers kids in grades K-5 to practice safer behaviors. This program offers resources to help parents, caregivers, and teachers protect kids by teaching and practicing the 4 Rules of Personal Safety using tips, printable activities, quizzes, articles, music, videos, and more.