Stranger danger!

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Teach your children to be safe

By Chief Lee Tramel, Knox County Sheriff’s Office

 

One of the most important conversations you can have with your child involves the dangers of strangers. Children need to know that not all adults are trustworthy. There are many things you can do to help keep your child safe.

Explain to your child what defines a stranger.

A good way to explain a stranger to a child comes from mcgruff.org: “A stranger is a person whom you have never met. You may have seen the person before but don’t know anything about him or her.” Let your child know that most strangers are nice, but some are not. Children should know that you cannot tell whether or not a stranger is nice just by looking at him or her.

Teach your children to be aware of a dangerous situation.

Tell them that if a stranger asks for help or to keep a secret, it could be a dangerous situation. They should decline to help them or talk to them and find a trusted adult immediately.

Instruct your children to NEVER open the door for anyone while you are gone.

This includes delivery drivers and maintenance workers. If a stranger knocks on the door, instruct your children to shout through the door that they will call the police if the stranger needs help. Tell them not to indicate that they are home alone.  Tell them to then immediately call you. Often, a burglar will knock on the door first to see if someone is home. If no one answers, the burglar will assume no one is home and will enter the residence. Letting the burglar know that someone is home and offering to call the police often deters them from entering.

Teach your child to play with a group of children, a safer alternative to playing alone.

Teach him or her to always take a friend when walking or riding a bike to and from school. Children should only walk and ride in well-lit areas and never take shortcuts. Children need to know the importance of being aware of their surroundings when walking, playing and biking.

Teach your children to trust their instincts.

If they feel uncomfortable or scared, they need to immediately get away from the situation. They should run away and find a trusted adult.

Train your children to always ask you for permission first.

If someone invites them to go somewhere, offers them a gift or money, or just wants to talk, teach them to ask for your permission first. If someone tries to take them somewhere, they need to quickly get away and yell for help.

While waiting for the bus, children need to stay with a group.

If anyone bothers them while going to or from school, they need to immediately get away from that person and find a trusted adult. If an adult approaches them for help, children need to know that grownups needing help should not ask children. They should ask other adults. If someone they do not know or feel comfortable with offers them a ride, they should always decline. Children should never hitchhike, and should only accept a ride from someone, if their parents or guardians gave them permission to do so.

Tell your children that if someone follows them on foot to get away from him or her as quickly as possible.

If someone follows them in a car, they should quickly turn around and go in the other direction. They need to immediately go to a safe place and tell an adult what happened. Instruct them to call 911 if they have a cell phone.

Leave items and clothing with your child’s name on them at home.

Strangers do not need to know your child’s name. Teach your child not to be fooled if someone he or she does not know calls out his or her name. Do not use decals on your vehicle pointing out that you have children. Predators can see those stick figures and names and know that you have children.

 

Lee Tramel is the Assistant Chief Deputy for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. During his 26 year career, he also served in the civil warrants division and as Assistant Director of the Court Services Division. Lee is a Knoxville native, where he lives with his wife and 10 year old daughter.

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