Every parent wants to keep their child safe, but knowing the best way to do so can be difficult. The truth is, kids today face an entirely different set of dangers than those that their parents faced while growing up. Because of this, new strategies must be created, learned and used to keep kids safe. Stranger danger has always been at the forefront of parents’ minds in regards to child safety. As kids, our parents’ biggest concerns were talking to strangers on our street and getting stolen out in public. Today though, the internet brings a brand new type of stranger danger, a type that the parents often have no idea even exists until it is too late.
Parents can help their children understand the dangers of talking to and interacting with strangers, both online and in person, to help reduce the risk of abuse or abduction. The internet is a very powerful tool and so many good things come from it, but sometimes, having a high speed connection can bring on more problems if you don’t properly express the dangers to your children. The strategies are simple, but they could mean the difference between life and death for children.
Identifying a stranger
Many children are so trusting that they are willing to accept the word of a stranger as truth, especially when the stranger appears to know personal details about them or their family. Parents should explain to children that just because a person seems to know them, it doesn’t mean they aren’t a stranger. Today, you can’t trust anything that you hear from a person you meet online, even if they claim to be a police officer. To parents, this seems so obvious, but what we have to realize is that children aren’t as skeptical as we are because they haven’t seen all the negatives that the world has to offer.
Families should use safety measures such as ‘code words’ that are told only to people who are allowed to pick them up from school or drive them places. Anyone who is to be alone with the child should know the code word or be approved in person by a parent. Children need to understand that they can’t just take a stranger’s word that they are telling the truth, no matter who they are.
Children are taught to respect adults, but this can be a bad thing when a stranger is involved. If children are approached by a stranger, whether online or in person, they need to know that it’s okay to show defiance, especially if they are asked to go somewhere with a person they don’t recognize. Parents need to let their kids know that it’s okay to say no to strangers and if necessary, make a scene to get themselves out of an isolated situation. Sadly, many children who are abducted or who fall for internet scams by strangers don’t fight back because they fear that they will be in trouble with their parents if they say no or make a scene.
Even young children who have access to a computer are at risk from cyber strangers. Online predators use various methods to gain access to kids, including impersonating other children. Parents need to be aware of the sites that their child is visiting and teach good cyber safety habits. Even sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, which seem innocent enough, are at very high risk to young people. Often, all it takes is a fake profile and teenage girls and boys will be willing to meet up. It is very important to keep an eye on what site your kids are visiting and who they are talking to. Also make sure your children know to:
-Never give out personal information.
-Never agree to meet in person without a parent present.
-Always tell a parent if something feels odd
By using these simple strategies above you should be able help guide your children to doing the right thing, but even though reading this will give your child some good guidance, it is of utmost importance to have an open and active dialogue with your children. Not only about meeting strangers in public, but about what they do on the internet daily and keeping an eye on how their internet activity may negatively affect them in the future. By doing this, parents have a better shot at helping to keep their kids safe even when they aren’t with them.