While property crime has decreased by 1.3 percent, violent crimes have increased by 4.1 percent between 2015 and 2016, according to the latest statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Among the most prevalent violent crimes recorded were aggravated assault, robbery and murder.
Scary, isn’t it? It’s even more frightening when you have young children who leave home every day to go to school, play and interact with strangers. Even grownups like you are not safe from stranger danger. Take note that people who have intention to hurt or take away your valuables will always find a way to out-power you, regardless of your age or physical strength. This is why it’s important to know the ‘stranger-danger’ safety tips listed below.
Stranger Safety Guide for the Whole Family
Each year, between 200 and 300 children are abducted in stereotypical kidnappings (grabbed from their homes or playgrounds in broad daylight), according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Here’s how you can keep your children safe in playgrounds and similar places:
- Always keep them supervised. Never go where they can’t see you.
- Don’t allow them to walk off or go to areas where it’s dark or where there are no people who they know.
- If possible, implement ‘buddy’ system – have them walk with a sibling or a friend all the time.
School violence has come into the public eye after deadly multiple shootings in several places in the U.S., particularly in Littleton, Colorado, Arkansas, Santee, Jonesboro, California, Minnesota, Red Lake, Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, and Cleveland, Ohio. Most of us thought ‘it couldn’t happen there’, but it did. In fact, since 1992, more than 40 schools have experienced multiple victim homicides. While the number of cases have declined, physical conflicts, harassment, and threats are still commonplace.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance, US Department of Justice outlines the role of parents in preventing school violence:
- Learn about the school policies, including safety and security procedures. Communicate your support to these policies, and discuss them with your children.
- Talk about the impact of violence in the media and its real-life consequences.
- Encourage your children to talk about their concerns for peers or people who may be exhibiting threatening or violent behavior.
- Encourage them to talk about their day-to-day activities, accomplishments, concerns and problems.
Whenever a crisis occurs, such as in the case of school shooting, parents should learn to recognize and help children with their reactions and emotions. Victims may exhibit symptoms like insomnia, anxiety, or becoming easily distracted. Kids should be encouraged to attend counseling or therapy until they fully recover.
No doubt, camping is one of the most popular family activities in the U.S. In fact, in the last 12 months, the number of people who went camping totaled 46.95 million. While camping can be fun, there could be danger waiting in the corner. More than the snakes and wild animals, real threats can also come from strangers. Remember, dangerous humans can be found in the wilderness too.
Stranger safety tips at camp sites:
- Trust your instincts with strangers. Do not disclose your itinerary.
- Lock your doors when you’re in an RV. The only people who should be knocking on your door after dark are the campground security or the police.
- Keep your children near you. Consider using a GPS Child Locator and a personal security alarm (noisemaker or screamer).
- Do not pick up hitchhikers.
- If some stranger approaches you, act and respond confidently. Don’t show fear.
- The potential for theft is always a possibility. Always keep your valuables in sight. When going to the shower room or restroom, keep them in a bag nearby. In your tent, consider using stash safes so thefts won’t suspect that your valuables are in there.
- Bring personal safety gears such as stun guns which can immobilize an attacker for a few moments, giving you time to run or hide, and ask for help. Other tools that are great to have are knives, tasers, and pepper spray.
- Always follow the camping safety rules and procedures set by the authorities. Whenever possible, stay near to other campers. Hike and camp with a group of friends. There is safety in numbers.
Safety in Public Places
If your whole family is going to a crowded place, such as festivals, shows, and games, the rule is to STAY ALERT. Always keep track of your belongings and make sure that everyone sticks together. Terrorist attacks in public places are also on the rise. Thus, it always pays to plan ahead.
Stranger safety tips in public places:
- Be mindful of the strangers nearby. If you have to walk in the street, walk facing traffic. The possibility of being followed, forced into a car, and abducted is higher if you walk with the traffic than against it.
- Avoid carrying large sums of cash, or displaying expensive jewelry.
- Report any suspicious activity or person to the police.
- If going to a crowded place, designate a meet-up area in case one gets separated. It could be at the food court, near the entrance, or by the security desk.
- Most thefts in public places occur when your valuables are clearly visible, when you’re distracted, or unmindful of your belongings.
- If a suspicious stranger asks to use your phone, do not allow him/her. They could be stealing valuable information. Politely decline and direct him to the information/help desk or a security officer where they can seek assistance instead.
- Ensure that everyone has their mobile phone for easy communication.
- If you have very young kids, give them an ID tag. It can be in a form of necklace, wrist band or sticker with your name and phone number on it.
- Be able to identify exits or escape routes when in stores, restaurants, malls and anywhere for that matter.
Stranger Danger – What You Should Teach Your Kids About
“Don’t talk to strangers”.
We tell this to our children all the time. But for very young children, it can be difficult to understand why this is so when they see their parents talk to strangers all the time – at the restaurant, grocery, school, and even at the parking lot. We even encourage them to say “Hi” “Hello” to the crews in McDonald’s, or the barista at a coffee house.
First of all, it’s important to let children understand that not all strangers are harmful people. Firemen and police offers are strangers. But they are good strangers. The best approach that every parent can apply is to teach kids when it is appropriate to talk to strangers and when it is not.
For instance, when they are with a trusted adult, it is okay to talk to a stranger. But when they are on their own, and someone approaches them, they have to be alert and vigilant. Talk about the tricks strangers use. If someone asks for help or offer some treats, they should walk or run away immediately. Remind them that a grown-up should ask only another grown-up for help.
Most kids are likely to be wary of people who appear scary but most child molesters and abductors are regular-looking people who seem so nice and kind. So instead of judging by the look, teach them to judge based on the stranger’s actions.
Teaching Kids their Address and Phone Number
Two of the most important things children have to learn are their home address and telephone number.
Memorizing the address – kids are visual learners. They easily remember things when they draw or make sketches of them. A great way to teach your kids to memorize their address is to ask them to make a map of your neighborhood. You should be able to highlight major streets and landmarks, lot and block numbers, and your house number.
Memorizing phone number – you should be the first person they will call in case of emergencies or when they get lost. Numbers can be hard to memorize but if you put it into a song, your kids are likely to memorize it in no time. Most things are learned easier when you put a tune to it.
Teaching Stranger Safety the Right Way
You can’t be there for your kids all the time. Thus, you have to prioritize teaching them how to deal with strangers. This can be done through frequent communication, discussion and practice.
- Point out safe strangers in the community where they can ask for help in case of emergencies, such as the police officers. Walk them through the neighborhood and talk about the people you know and trust.
- Teach them the ‘one-hand’ rule. Because these days it’s hard to determine who are good and bad strangers, make it clear to your children that they can only talk to strangers when they are with a trusted adult.
- Discuss emergency/threatening scenarios and what to do. Constant reinforcement of what your kids have to do in times like this is the best way to help them protect themselves. For example, ask them what would they do if they get separated from you at the mall. This practice helps kids explore their options and exercise them.
- Encourage kids to trust their own instincts. If someone makes them uncomfortable or if they feel that something’s not right, walk away immediately.
You’ll never know when a stranger will come to the picture and harm your family. Thus, it is important to be prepared all the time. With this guide, you will feel more confident about the safety and security of everyone in your family.