May 18 2013

Tricky People TRUMPS Stranger Danger

Published by at 3:50 PM under Abduction Prevention

Stranger-danger – it’s a cute rhyme. Unfortunately, it’s completely inaccurate and, truth be told, it can actually undermine our kids, making them more vulnerable.

In the aftermath of the Cleveland story, where three young women were finally rescued after 10 years of tortured captivity, well-meaning parents are trotting out their “stranger-danger” speech one more time, reminding their children over and over again “don’t talk strangers.” I’m sorry, but it doesn’t work.

Kids don’t want to get into a car with some creepy stranger, but what about that friendly guy who approaches and says:
“Hey, we’re shooting a commercial a block away and we need some more kids in it. It won’t take long and you’ll get paid.”
“Hey, there’s a new store that just opened up down the street. We’re giving away $50 gift cards just for checking it out. Come on.”
“Hey, that backpack looks pretty heavy. I live down the street from you, hop in, I’ll drive you home.”
“Hey, we lost our pet, can you help find him?” (Yes, that trick still works!)

Child predators are notorious for appearing friendly and non-threatening. They use clever TRICKS that are shrewd to catch kids off guard. A child’s stranger-danger radar often doesn’t kick in, even when it should.
Kids aren’t born with street-smarts, it’s a skill they need to learn. Parents will often mistakenly assume their tweens & teens will be savvy enough, immune to these tricks, because they’re older now. But statistically, teens and tweens are more vulnerable to “TRICKY PEOPLE”.
It’s time to have an authentic and straightforward conversation with your kids, so they are empowered enough to recognize when a situation or person just isn’t safe.
1) Give them some examples of the “tricks” so they start thinking about their personal safety in a more realistic way.
2) There’s often a false sense of security when kids are in familiar surroundings, walking/biking to school, hanging out in their neighborhood… wearing headphones, or texting. A distracted kid is a vulnerable kid.
3) Tell your kids in plain English: Safety outweighs politeness. Our kids (especially teen girls!) are often too polite, even with strangers, not wanting to make a scene or feel embarrassed.
As our children grow up, they’re going to be in the world without us by their side 24/7, and that’s OK… as long as we teach them HOW to be in the world.
It’s not about instilling fear or becoming a helicopter parent. It’s about getting real and giving our kids the straight-up information so that they’ll have enough “street sense” not to be tricked. It’s that simple.
Make no mistake: Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry, and Michelle Knight are NOT to blame for their kidnapping. The blame lies solely on the cunning fiend, Ariel Castro, who took advantage of their innocence.
In the case of Gina DeJesus, Castro was not a stranger – he was the dad of one of her friends. With Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight, he appeared friendly and non-threatening. In all three instances, he TRICKED THEM into getting into his car. They, too, were probably taught as children not to talk to strangers, and sadly they just didn’t know any better.


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