Child-abduction expert: Don’t say ‘stranger danger’

FORT MYERS, Fla. Two words commonly used to describe attempted child abduction may be putting children at risk.

The term “stranger danger” is ineffective, and it mistakenly conveys the idea to children that only strangers can harm them, according to Nancy A. McBride, Executive Director of Florida outreach for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Parents should instead teach their children to recognize potentially dangerous situations, according to McBride’s research. Predators are known to try to lure children into cars, so McBride believes it’s key to warn children against following the instructions of anyone who tries to get them to do so.

“If anyone asks you to approach their vehicle, or get in their vehicle, or is asking you questions, this is not a time to be polite — this is a time to turn and run,” she said.

A man tried to pull a child into his car Sunday in Cape Coral, police said, sparking more fears among parents and a message to parents from officers:

Kids may be able to recognize those situations, but McBride tells parents to teach children to recognize “good strangers.”

“You may have to get help from somebody you don’t know,” she said.

Most important for parents is to keep a steady dialogue with their children, according to McBride.

“Don’t ever stop having those conversations with your kids, and monitoring what they’re doing both in the real world and the virtual world,” she said.

Below is a pamphlet with more advice on keeping children safe (mobile users click here):

Reporter:Lois Thome