The Danger of “Stranger Danger”

Stranger Danger is rearing it’s ugly head again as A-Channel NEWS airs a three part series Oct. 24, 25, 26, 2007.

Once again we are focusing on a minuscule threat and avoiding the real issues.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children states:

Is "stranger danger"—that dangers to kids come from strangers—really a myth?

Yes. In the majority of cases, the perpetrator is someone the parents or child knows, and that person may be in a position of trust or responsibility to the child and family.

We have learned that children do not have the same understanding of who a stranger is as an adult might; therefore, it is a difficult concept for the child to grasp. It is much more beneficial to children to help them build the confidence and self-esteem they need to stay as safe as possible in any potentially dangerous situation they encounter rather than teaching them to be "on the look out" for a particular type of person.

For decades, parents, guardians, and teachers have told children to "stay away from strangers" in an effort to keep them safe. In response to the on-going debate about the effectiveness of such programs, NCMEC released the research-based Guidelines for Programs to Reduce Child Victimization: A Resource for Communities When Choosing a Program to Teach Personal Safety to Children to assist schools as they select curricula aimed at reducing crimes against children.
The Missing Children's Network Canada states:
The Stranger-Danger Myth

Did you know that the majority of abductions and aggressions against children are committed by someone the child knows and trusts?

The Missing Children's Network has removed the use of the term "stranger" from its safety literature for the following reasons:

# It just doesn't work! Children need a clear and concise description in order to be able to properly recognize a stranger in their neighbourhood.

# Adults often send contradictory messages when saying "Don't talk to strangers!" When we walk on the street, how often do we tell our children to say hello to people who are walking by?

# In case of emergency, children may need to ask help from someone they don't necessarily know or have never met. Children need to be reassured that most people are well-intentioned and sincerely care about them.

For these reasons, we strongly recommend that you constantly reinforce the following fundamental principle:

Your child always has the right to say NO! to anyone including family members, neighbors, close friends, teachers, coaches or in any situation that leaves him feeling afraid, uncomfortable or confused. If at any time he finds himself in these circumstances, he must say NO!, get away from the situation and immediately confide in an adult whom he trusts.
So why do the media continue to pound away at this myth. Probably for the same reason discrimination and racism exists - it is far easier to see people we do not know and understand as being dangerous than those we have been taught to trust, who are a much greater risk to our children.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that we actually live in very safe communities in a very safe country (where crime rates are declining but crime reporting by the media is increasing), we live in an age of fear. We do not let our children walk even a few blocks to school. In the past it was children that used to be afraid of the bogeyman. Now we live in a society that is afraid of the bogeyman.

We develop many of our attitudes in life at an early stage. If we teach our children to needlessly fear strangers what will that do their social development. What will that do to their ability to trust others and build communities together.

I prefer to think of a stranger as a friend I have not met yet.

No comments: