If your children are already aware of "stranger danger", there's now a new safety concept called "Tricky People" which helps kids identify who is a potential predator and keeps them safe from harm
When Jodie Norton was in the emergency room due to a ruptured ovarian cyst, her two children (8 and 10 years old), were sitting alone on a bench outside of the hospital waiting for their neighbour to pick them up and help send them to school.
But they were then approached by three strangers who persistently asked them to go to the hospital bathroom and help convince their other friend to see a doctor.
Fortunately, Norton's sons sensed something was amiss and refused to help these strangers because it felt like they were trying to trick them.
When their neighbour's car pulled up and the two boys rushed in, they saw the three strangers jump into another car, followed by a fourth stranger from the bathroom, before they quickly drove off!
If these children had not learned about the "tricky people" concept from a book by Pattie Fitzgerald, it could have been a parent's worst nightmare come true.
So what exactly is the difference between the old "stranger danger" idea and the new and effective "tricky people" concept that your kids should be learning about to keep them safe from harm?
The problem with "stranger danger"
Most kids have been taught not to take sweets from strangers, not to talk to any strangers, and not to follow a stranger anywhere on their own. But this old idea of "stranger danger" may not work as well as you think.
If you tell a child to be wary of "bad people" who might cause them harm, they will probably imagine an unsafe stranger to be a masked villain, or a hairy monster with sharp teeth, or maybe even a tall mysterious stranger with a scary voice.
Pattie Fitzgerald, founder of Safely Ever After, Inc., an educational company that strives to prevent childhood sexual abuse, explains:
“Most of the time, kids are learning ‘stranger danger,’ which is cute and it rhymes, but isn’t really effective. 'Tricky people’ is certainly more effective because most strangers are not dangerous… kids think a stranger is going to be somebody who is kind of scary looking or scary sounding, but statistically, if someone wants to harm a child they are not going to appear scary, they’re going to be charming, have an enticing offer, and seem friendly.”
So even if someone was well-dressed and approached kids gently with a big warm smile, they could still be an unsafe stranger who is up to no good.
Another reason why "stranger danger" might not work well, is that when your child does need help from someone (for example if they are lost in the shopping mall), it will be hard for them to approach anybody because they have been taught that all strangers cannot be trusted.
Easy ways to identify "tricky people"
Simply replace the word "stranger" with "tricky person" and that might help your child figure out who is considered an unsafe adult.
Like the name suggests, a "tricky person" is someone who will try to trick kids into doing something wrong or even dangerous.
The Tricky People concept helps kids easily identify who exactly is a potential threat and you can teach your little ones to understand more about "tricky people":
- A "tricky person" can be someone you don't know or even someone you do know and they might even be well-dressed and seem nice
- Only a "tricky person" would ask a kid to break any safety rules
- A safe adult would never force a kid to do something that will make them feel bad
- A "tricky person" might try to do something that hurts a kid's body
- A safe adult would not ask a kid for help
- "Tricky people" are adults who might tell kids to keep secrets from their parents
- Trust your gut instinct if it's telling you something is wrong!
Go to the next page to read about possible "tricky people" scenarios