Have you ever told your children they shouldn't talk to strangers? How about going somewhere with someone they don't know? Do you think they would follow your advice? YouTuber Joey Salads decided to put this theory to the test in a video that he calls a social experiment.
In the video, Joey, with a puppy in tow, approaches a few moms in a park and asks them if they think their child would talk to a stranger. He then puts what they say to the test by approaching each child with his dog and talking to him or her. All three of the children shown in the video gladly walk off with Joey after he shows them his dog and asks if they want to see more puppies.
It's kind of a shocking video because none of the moms are expecting their child to walk off with a stranger. At the end of the video, Joey mentions that 700 kids a day are abducted and asks if your children are safe. Well, are they?
First, it's important to note that according to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children, only 115 children a year in the United States are victims of kidnappings by a stranger (the rest are from people they know like a parent who doesn't have custody). We also don't know how many children this man talked to who didn't go with him or how many of the children saw the man talking to their moms and thought he was ok. These children were also pretty safe since mom was watching and the children weren't alone.
But the reality is that there are people out there who may want to harm your children, so how to you protect your children without scaring them? Here are five things to consider while teaching your children about strangers.
Not all strangers are bad
Most people don't want to kidnap your children. In fact, most people would probably want to help a child in need. Teaching children that they should be afraid of all strangers may make them afraid to ask for help when they need it. It's important to teach your children what a stranger is and what types of strangers are safe to talk to if they need help (like police officers, teachers, a store clerk or another mom).
Don't go with a stranger
If all you teach your children is to never talk to strangers, they will most likely break that rule, since they are surrounded by strangers every day. What you're probably really concerned about is your child going with or being harmed by a stranger. So teach your child about what the fear really is. Consider teaching your children that it's ok to talk to some strangers, but it's not ok for strangers to ask them for help, touch them or take them somewhere without a parent's permission.
It's likely that if all you do is lecture, your children won't remember the rules when they need them. To reinforce what you've taught, you can role-play scenarios that might actually happen. Talk about what your children should do in specific scenarios and then practice those scenarios with your children. You can find a list of ideas from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Don't ignore online strangers
One of the biggest ways children are in danger is from online predators. In fact, letting your children roam the Internet unsupervised can be more dangerous than letting them roam the park alone. It's important to teach your children how to be safe online and to follow those same safety rules yourself. You can learn more and find resources for teaching your children about online safety at netsmartz.org.
Safety with everyone
Remember that a stranger is not the only one who may harm your children. The vast majority of crimes committed against children are by people they know. The important thing is that your children learn that it's not ok for people to do anything without their consent or without their parents knowing about it.