Friday, November 13, 2009

Stranger Danger

I am a nanny, currently. For the past three years, I worked at a childcare center, and worked in every age group offered. Before that, I babysat...and babysat..and babysat. I devoured texts on children, on child development, on child psychology, ect ect ect. My AA is in education, and I will be getting my CDA next year. Clearly, children are my forte, and I adore them.
Which is why it suprises people that I detest the Stranger Danger program. Detest it.
Stranger Danger doesn't have an actual website, but McGuff has the basic idea here

Don't get me wrong, Stranger Danger teaches good enough concepts. Don't talk to strangers, never take candy or a puppy from someone you don't know, Always stay with a group ect ect ect. But there are some major flaws in the program.

The first problem with Stranger Danger is that it tells children what to do to NOT get abducted, but not what to do IF it happens. A child doesn't have to talk to a stranger to be abducted. Someone who wants to abduct a child isn't going to be detered by the fact that their target won't speak to them. If an adult wants to grab a child, they are going to, and Stranger Danger doesn't teach what to do if you are grabbed by someone. It kind of leaves kids hanging at the end. "Don't talk to strangers, but if that doesn't work, you're SOL" There are three completions to the concepts Stranger Danger teaches
The program is on to the right idea, because it does tell kids to run and to yell. Getting closer, Stranger Danger. Telling a child to run is well and good. Telling them HOW to run is better. An adult is almost always going to be faster than a child, but a child who knows how and where to run has a better chance.
Rule #1: Run fast, toward the nearest house, store or building, and NEVER EVER look back. When you get to a house or building, POUND on the door and scream that you need help. Screaming while you run is helpful.
Looking back slows you down, and if you're being pursued, seconds count. I don't recomend telling a child that last part. Don't look back is enough.

Secondly, it tells children to yell. Tell me, adults, if you see a child struggling with an adult, screaming his lungs out, what will your immediate thought be? Not kidnapping, that's for sure. A child struggling with an adult, screaming? That's a temper tantrum.

Rule #2:Scream words.
"You're not my Daddy!" "I need Help!" and "Amber Alert!" alert people to the fact that there is a problem, especially in a crowded place, like a mall, where there is security.

Thirdly, Stranger Danger never tells kids to get violent! Isn't the first rule of rape that if you fight back, most rapists will leave you be (I don't know how true that is, but that's what we were always told)? Even with no martial arts training, a child can inflict damage and pain when they need to.
Rule #3: Kick, Punch, Hit, Pinch, Bite. You won't get in trouble later

Even with those glaring holes, the biggest problem with Stranger Danger is that it teaches kids to safegaurd against something that, in all liklihood, will never happen to them. Stranger sbductions account for a miniscule percentage of all abductions. In 2001, 3200 to 4600 children were abducted by non-family members, and 62% of those were stranger abductions. Keep in mind, that means that 38% of these children were kidnapped by someone they knew. In contrast 183,200 to 354,100 children were kidnapped by FAMILY MEMBERS, and most of these by parents. This means that, in 2001, 1.09% of all abducted children were abducted by strangers. The other 99% were abducted by someone they knew, and probably trusted, and the vast majority of those were by parents.
You can't safeguard against parent abduction (well, you can, but that goes into choosing a spouse and such, and that's completly a topic for another day), but you can make sure your children know to never go anywhere, with anyone, even their best friends mom, unless you have approved it first. You can make sure they know that they never have a reason to be alone with an adult unless you have told them it is going to happen. This is a sticky situation, but one that can be dealt with.

Rule #1: Let your kids know that you will let them know if someone besides you is supposed to pick them up, drop them off, or take them anywhere.

Rule #2: Have a password or a passcard that must be told to or presented to your child if there i an emergency and you cannot pick them up. Change the password any time it is used. Older children do well with this, because they can remember that the password changes. Younger children would do well with a laminated passcard that simply says "I Can Pick Up Billy!". The Adult must get the card from you and give it to your child to let them know they really are allowed to pick up your child.

Rule #3: Have open communication with your child. Tell them that no adult should ever tell them to keep a secret from you. Make sure they know the parts of their body that no one is allowed to touch without their permission, and make sure they know that they can always tell you if they feel like something happened that shouldn't have.

You cannot completly safeguard against kidnapping, but you can take actions, beyond Stranger Danger, to ensure that your child knows how to activly avoid abduction.

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