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Friday, October 21, 2011

"Stranger Danger" is the Real Danger

     As Halloween approaches, I am reminded of the lesson I hear all too often given to children that will not benefit from it and that lesson is, "Stranger Danger". This is a line of thought I do NOT agree with as I believe it leads to and instills an unhealthy fear into kids. Should kids fear that someone can do them wrong? Sure, but, the whole "Stranger Danger" goes about it all wrong I believe. I use in "Situation Awareness, Decision, Performance of Action and Tell Someone" No, you don't have to use these words to explain to the kid, LOL. You could call it SAD PATS though. Haha!! I call it this for the adults to better comprehend. 

Situation Awareness: Teach your child to pay attention to the world around him. Notice if someone seems "not quite right" in demeanor, notice unfamiliar cars, notice family acting not right, notice other kids, stay around a group, notice all of their surroundings.

Decision: If someone asks them to do something they are uncomfortable with, they need a plan of escape. They need to know to yell "NO!" and run. They need to know if approached in a store and grabbed, to knock over shelves and knock everything off the racks. They need to know to scream that this isn't their parent. And they need to decide what to do and to not be scared to do it.

Performance of Action: This is where they aren't scared. They have been warned, taught and prepared. They take action and do what is necessary in their already assessed situation. 

Tell Someone: This one should be obvious...once away from the situation, they should find an adult to tell immediately with as much detail as possible. This is where all of the steps they have been taught come together.

The main reason I do NOT like the old approach is that it teaches, in a child's thinking, that ALL strangers are bad, that bad people look a certain way and that no one can ever be trusted. In fact, it can backfire and lead a child to believe that even a Police Officer and the like are bad because they are strangers...which isn't good considering your child may need to talk with them. It also eliminates family and "known" friends from the picture and statistically, family and friends are more likely to be the ones that harm your child. Also, if you are teaching it as "Only strangers are bad and not to be trusted". Then what happens if that stranger manages to talk to your kid a time or two here and there? THAT stranger automatically goes into the "Not a stranger" category in your child's mind making them a prime target for the offender. 

Love this link from the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children :

Here are a few more links to various posts about "Strangers" and situations and how they deal with them:

You can join us on the Facebook page for a discussion on this topic.


  1. I love the way you've explained this. I practice the same approach with my children, but never gave it a name, lol. In my own childhood, it wasn't the strangers that were the danger, so I completely agree with you on "stranger danger" being a poor approach. It reminds me of that scene in "Kindergarten Cop" where he's trying to help and the kid is shouting "Stranger Danger!".

  2. This is so much better to explain than the "stranger danger". I talk to strangers...but they can't? I love this...thanks!