“Stranger Danger” is a phrase our parents and teachers taught us at an early age. They told us never to take candy from a stranger, never to walk up to a car when we didn’t know who was inside. It’s easy to brush it off after hearing it so many times, especially when you often feel safe in your neighborhood. But know this: You can never be too cautious when it comes to strangers. We like to believe most people are good, but year after year, the statistics might make us question that. Here’s a snapshot of the numbers:
Almost 800,000 children are reported missing each year (that’s over 2,000 a day)
203,900 of those children are kidnapped by family members
58,200 are abducted by non-relatives
115 are classified as being taken by a stranger
In the time it took you to skim the intro of this article, a child has gone missing in the United States.
You don’t. If Stranger Danger were a black and white situation, those numbers you read above would be more than halved. Strangers can get creative in the way they present themselves to others, making it difficult to deem them dangerous. No one will ever blame you for coming off rude in an effort to remain careful. For example, a man says he’s friends with your mom, who asked to have you picked up from school. Of course if you’ve met this person before, there’s no danger in sight. But if you have to actively try to remember who this person is, ignore them and continue about your day. Remaining safe trumps being polite 100% of the time.
Wrong. An easy way for a stranger to get your attention is to act confused or curious and ask you a question. “Do you know where the closest coffee shop is?” “Do you need a ride home?” “What kind of bike is that?” Whatever it takes to get your attention. Know that if a stranger really needed help with directions, or had a legitimate concern, they wouldn’t be asking a child. Again, it’s best to ignore the question and act as if that person isn’t there.
Shopping malls, festivals, even just walking around town, these are often crowded areas that you may accompany your parents to. It’s these areas where strangers can lurk and prey on easy targets. Getting distracted by something in a store window, a friend walking by, or a dog tied up outside of a coffee shop can result in separation from your parent. In this case, make sure to do these three things:
Stay right where you are. Chances are your parent will retrace their steps to locate you.
While staying put, keep an eye out for a policeman, or someone else of authority. They’ll be able to help you.
If you’re nearby a store and more than 10 minutes have passed, walk into the store and let the person behind the counter know that you’ve lost sight of your parent. They’ll have a phone you can use to call.
As you grow up and constantly absorb bits and pieces of Stranger Danger, you start to think everyone that’s not under your roof at home, or a friend at school, is dangerous. As stated above, most people are good and mean well. Yet, a good person that you don’t know is still considered a stranger. Your gut instincts for danger develop as you age, and those instincts will start to come naturally. Trust them. They will help distinguish those people who are just as friendly as you, and those you should stay away from.
Talk to your parents or your legal guardian about more ways to continually remain cautious, and to develop a plan of action if you’re ever found in a dangerous situation. Reading about topics like this are not fun and frankly, they can be scary, but always necessary. As you get older, you start to peel back more layers of the world we live in. Some are wonderful to uncover, and others, such as Stranger Danger, become more of a reality. The more you know about the telltale signs of Stranger Danger, the safer you are.