Teaching personal safety to children is an on-going process, and requires much more than simply instructing them to never talk to strangers. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), limiting safety education to messages such as "never go with a stranger" or "never accept gifts from a stranger" is incomplete in protecting children from potential dangers. The NCMEC also emphasizes that the message "never talk to a stranger" can confuse children, and could prevent them from seeking help from good strangers. With the majority of child abduction cases involving perpetrators knowing the child or parents, effective methods to teach children personal safety must go well beyond the practice of trying to avoid strangers.
Personal Safety Lessons
- Teach children to always ask for your permission, or another trusted adult's, before going anywhere, accepting anything, or getting into a vehicle with anyone; even when it is someone that they know, like a neighbor or friend of the family.
- Teach children that they have the right to say NO to anyone who touches them, or says something that makes them feel frightened or uncomfortable. If someone does, they should get away from that person, and immediately tell a trusted adult.
- Teach children the importance of the buddy system.
- Interview and monitor babysitters, youth leaders, etc. Be alert to a teenager or adult who is paying an unusual amount of attention to your child, or giving him/her inappropriate or expensive gifts.
- Rehearse safety situations with your child. Play the What If game.