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What Should Parents Tell Children About Safety?

Don't forget your older children. Children aged 11 to 17 are equally at risk to victimization. At the same time you are giving your older children more freedom, make sure they understand important safety rules as well.

Speak to your children in manner that is calm and non-threatening. Children do not need to be frightened to get the point across. In fact, fear can thwart the safety message, because fear can be paralyzing to a child. Speak openly. Children will be less likely to come to you about issues enshrouded in secrecy. If they feel that you are comfortable discussing the subject at hand, they may be more forthcoming.

Do not teach stranger danger. Children do not have the same understanding of strangers as adults; the concept is difficult for them to grasp. And, based on what we know about those who harm children, people known to children and/or their families actually present greater danger to children than do strangers.

Practice what you preach. You may think your children understand your message, but until they can incorporate it into their daily lives, it may not be clearly understood. Find opportunities to practice what if scenarios.

Teach your children that safety is more important than manners. In other words, it is more important for children to get themselves out of a threatening situation than it is to be polite. They also need to know that it is okay to tell you what happened, and they won't be tattletales.

IS STRANGER DANGER? THAT DANGER 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.

WHAT OTHER ADVICE CAN YOU OFFER PARENTS ABOUT TALKING TO KIDS?

Parents should choose opportunities or ?teachable? moments to reinforce safety skills. If an incident occurs in your community and your child asks you about it, speak frankly but with reassurance. Explain to your children that you want to discuss the safety rules with them, so that they will know what to do if they are ever confronted with a difficult situation. Make sure you have safety nets in place, so that your children know there is always someone who can help them.

WHAT CHILD SAFETY EDUCATION RESOURCES DOES NCMEC PROVIDE?

NCMEC offers a wealth of resources to help educate parents, children, law enforcement, and the general public about child safety.

[Safety tips adapted from Know the Rules...General Parental Tips to Help Keep Your Children Safer. Copyright 2000 National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). All rights reserved.]

I HEARD ABOUT A TRACKING DEVICE FOR CHILDREN ON A COMMERCIAL. IS THERE ONE THAT NCMEC RECOMMENDS?

Consumers need to understand that the first line of defense for families is safety education and line-of-sight supervision of their children. If a device is to be used, understand what it can do and cannot do, that machines can fail, and that the tracking device should be, if they choose, an element within a complete safety program for their family.

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