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Mommy's Grounded

'Don’t talk to strangers' not enough to keep your kids safe

By Bianca Bujan

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

A series of child abduction social experiments were conducted and shared through social media by YouTube sensation Joey Salads, and the results have parents second-guessing their methods when it comes to educating their kids about “stranger danger”.

With the permission of the children’s parents, Salads would approach unknowing kids on the playground and lure them away in a matter of minutes, using puppies, candy or other tempting props, to prove how easily children can be persuaded to trust a friendly face - familiar or not.

Each video opens with Salads asking the parents if they think their kids would leave the playground with a stranger, and in every instance, the parents seem confident that their children have learned to never talk to strangers.

But Salads’ friendly demeanour and cutesy approach makes it easy for the children to trust him, following his lead as he guides them towards his car.

The parents are shocked when they see the results, and viewers are left questioning why it was so easy for the pretend predator to succeed at his attempts to abduct the children.

Growing up, many of us were simply told never to talk to strangers and that one simple message was intended to prevent us from putting ourselves in harm’s way.

The reality is, most abductions occur by someone who is familiar to the child, or by someone who doesn’t embody that “stranger danger” persona, thanks to a friendly face and a kind disposition.

We tell our children not to talk to strangers, but then prompt them to be polite and respond to their elders.

We don’t model the same message ourselves, speaking to strangers on a daily basis out of necessity. By doing so, we’re sending them mixed messages and not providing them with a clear action plan.

Instead of telling our children what not to do, we need to arm them with the right tools so that they know what to do if they find themselves in a dangerous situation.

The KidSafe Foundation suggests that we replace “Don’t talk to strangers” with “What would you do if...”, providing our kids with real-life scenarios, and talking them through the necessary steps to react in a safe way.

It’s important for them to understand that while it’s nice to want to be helpful, adults would never ask a child to help them find their puppy, and would never invite them to see something in their car without gaining the permission of their parents first.

We need to change our language and teach our children the proactive skills needed to navigate through potentially unsafe situations. Not only will it make them better prepared, but according to KidSafe, “Kids who have been raised with personal safety skills have an increased level of confidence, responsibility, and often develop a keener sense of intuition at a younger age.”

Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, freelance writer, and marketing consultant. She tweets at @bitsofbee and blogs at bitsofbee.com. Comments: bitsofbee@yahoo.ca.