Stranger Danger in the news…

These things are so frightening that they make me want to follow my daughter everywhere. This is as unrealistic as it is damaging. I can’t do it forever and what will she do at 14, 15,16 or whatever age she is when I finally let her out of my sight? She needs to know how to protect herself and the earlier she learns the better.

“Stranger danger” wording and other scary or negative images are often used by the media when they present stories about violence, particularly violence against children. Headlines are far more likely to say “GIRL ATTACKED!” than “GIRL PROTECTS HERSELF FROM ATTACKER!” We are more likely to read, ”ATTEMPTED ABDUCTION!” instead of “CHILD STOPS ABDUCTION!”  This emphasis on the negative – on the danger or risk rather than on the success of the person attacked – can increase anxiety and fear.

When we, as parents and caregivers, follow stories like this, we are wise to reflect on what happens for ourselves and the children in our care in the process. In general, just talking and hearing about dangers increases anxiety and fears.  Unfortunately, the rhyming phrase “stranger danger” plays into that anxiety and fear.  We encourage people to give up the phrase “stranger danger” and focus instead on stranger safety, along with focusing on safety with peers and other people children know.

Practicing ways to deal with a problem can build confidence and reduce anxiety. When violence of any kind happens close to home, especially if it is violence against a young person, we often find ourselves poring over the newspaper for information or listening to radio or TV reports in hopes of good news.

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