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Children often hear "Don’t talk to strangers” or "Stay away from strangers.”

We've given a great deal of thought to these stranger warnings, and would like to share 4 important observations.

Children and Strangers

1. Children often think "strangers" look bad or mean or dirty. They can think that if someone looks nice, that person is not a stranger.

  • Fact: Many molesters know this and purposely dress nicely so they can more easily lure children.

2. Children can become confused when given rules like "don't talk to strangers" while their parents say "hi" to people on the street and chat with the grocery clerk. Children can:

  • Think if a person has spoken to their parents just once, then that person is not a stranger.
  • Decide that if their parents talk to strangers, they can too.

3. If a child is lost or has no trusted adult nearby, everyone is a stranger to that child. How is your child going to find help without talking to strangers?

4. The great majority of people who abduct or molest children are not strangers, they already know the children they harm.

Instead of "don't talk to strangers," we strongly suggest you teach your children to watch out for dangerous adult behaviors. You can teach your children these 4 simple rules.

Dangerous Adult Behaviors

“If any adult or older kid offers you anything without asking me, step way back, yell, “NO!”, run away, and tell.” (This applies to candy, pets, treats, job offers, photographs, rides on motorcycles, etc.)

“If any adult or older kid asks for your help without asking me first, step way back, yell “NO!”, run away and tell.” (This applies to mailing a letter, picking something up for an injured person, approaching a car to give directions, doing yard work, looking for a lost puppy, etc.)

“If any adult or old kid asks you to keep a secret, step way back, yell “NO!”, run away, and tell.”

If any adult or older kid touches your private parts (parts covered by a swim suit) or asks you to touch your private parts or somebody else’s, step way back, yell “NO!”, run away and tell.”

We recommend you reassure your kids that you won't be mad if they make a mistake. It's part of the learning process.

Also, you can teach your children ways to identify people they can ask for help, like store clerks and women with children. Our free Child Safety Kit has many ideas to help you teach safety by playing “What If…” with children of all ages.

Additional child safety information: