The Truth About Stranger Danger

Hannah Cline's picture
By Hannah Cline on October 22, 2019

Many families look forward to Halloween’s pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating and spooky costumes.

While the holiday is full of festive fun, parents can make sure their children maximize their Halloween experience by helping them to stay safe no matter what the night brings.

On Carilion Clinic Living, we have talked about the importance of visibility and car safety. One other topic important not to overlook, however, is stranger safety.

While a majority of young parents grew up learning about “stranger danger,” some experts say that there’s more to stranger safety than that.

“While stranger danger seems like a simple way to teach children about stranger safety, it also has some disadvantages,” said Carilion Clinic Police Captain, Ed Watkins. “We want to be sure that if a child needs help, they know that some peoplelike a store clerk, police officer or another parent with childrenare people who could potentially help them.”

In fact, the CDC reports that a majority of child abuse occurs not with a stranger, but with someone the child knows.

To best be sure that your child is cautious about but not overly fearful of strangers, try swapping out the following phrases when talking to your child:

  • Old Lesson: Never talk to strangers.
    New Lesson: Don’t talk to just anyone. If you need help, look for a uniformed police officer, store clerk in a uniform or with a nametag or another parent with children.
     
  • Old Lesson: Stay away from people you don’t know.
    New Lesson: Make sure to ask my permission before going anywhere with anyone. That way I'll know where you are and who you're with.
     
  • Old Lesson: You can tell someone is bad just by looking at them.
    New Lesson: Pay attention to what people do. Tell me right away if anyone asks you to keep a secret, makes you feel uncomfortable or tries to get you to go with them.

It is crucial to let your child know to reach out to you if anyone ever makes them feel uncomfortable, especially if it is someone they already know. 

During Halloween, it is recommended that children under the age of 12 should have adult supervision. If kids are mature enough to be out without supervision, remind them to stick to familiar areas that are well lit and to trick-or-treat in groups.

Of course, stranger safety should not be limited to just Halloween. It is important to have these conversations whenever you can with your children, and not just in regards to strangers.

Use the safety tips above to get the conversation started anytime and check out safekids.org/safetytips for more information.