Nassau County Sheriff's Office

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What to teach kids about strangers

Yulee, Fla. – The Nassau County Sheriff’s Office wants to remind parents to make sure they share information with their children regarding strangers. “Teaching your child about stranger safety is a must, but it can be tricky. Some strangers, such as police officers, are safe strangers. For your child’s safety it’s imperative he or she knows enough to be well prepared if he’s or she’s ever approached by a stranger or, even worse, faces an abduction attempt” said Sheriff Bill Leeper. 

Parents can protect their children from dangerous strangers by teaching them about strangers and suspicious behavior, and by taking a few precautions of their own.

Who is a stranger?

A stranger is anyone that your family doesn’t know well. It’s common for children to think that “bad strangers” look scary, like the villains in cartoons. Pretty strangers can be just as dangerous as the not-so-pretty ones. When you talk to your children about strangers, explain that no one can tell if strangers are nice or not nice just by looking at them and that they should be careful around all strangers.

But don’t make it seem like all strangers are bad. If children need help–whether they’re lost, being threatened by a bully, or being followed by a stranger–the safest thing for them to do in many cases is to ask a stranger for help. You can make this easier for them by showing them which strangers are okay to trust.

Who are safe strangers?

Safe strangers are people children can ask for help when they need it. Police officers and firefighters are two examples of very recognizable safe strangers. Teachers, principals, and librarians are adults children can trust too, and they are easy to recognize when they’re at work. But make sure that you emphasize that whenever possible, children should go to a public place to ask for help.

Recognizing and Handling Dangerous Situations

Perhaps the most important way parents can protect their children is to teach them to be wary of potentially dangerous situations – this will help them when dealing with strangers as well as with known adults who may not have good intentions. Help children recognize the warning signs of suspicious behavior, such as when an adult asks them to disobey their parents or do something without permission, asks them to keep a secret, asks children for help, or makes them feel uncomfortable in any way.

You should also talk to your children about how they should handle dangerous situations. One way is to teach them “No, Go, Yell, Tell.” If in a dangerous situations, kids should say no, run away, yell as loud as they can, and tell a trusted adult what happened right away. Make sure that your children know that it is okay to say no to an adult in a dangerous situation and to yell to keep them safe, even if they are indoors.

What Else Parents Can Do

In addition to teaching children how to recognize and handle dangerous situations and strangers, there are a few more things parents can do to help their children stay safe and avoid dangerous situations.

  • Know where your children are at all times. Make it a rule that your children must ask permission or check in with you before going anywhere. Give your children your work and cell phone numbers so they can reach you at all times.
  • Point out safe places. Show your children safe places to play, safe roads and paths to take, and safe places to go if there’s trouble.
  • Teach children to trust their instincts. Explain that if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable, they should get away as fast as they can and tell an adult.
  • Teach your children to be assertive. Make sure they know that it’s okay to say no to an adult and to run away from adults in dangerous situations.
  • Encourage your children to play with others. There’s safety in numbers!

“It’s impossible to shelter children from every danger they may encounter when growing up, however the most important commitment a parent can make to a child is to spend more time with him or her. The lonely and attention-starved child is an easy target for the likes of a child abductor” Sheriff Leeper concluded.

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