Helping children to keep themselves safe

“The concept of ‘stranger danger’ has been discredited and could be potentially dangerous. Teaching kids about stranger danger may stop them from seeking help from strangers when they really need it,” says Inspector Paula Holt, Prevention Manager: Communities.

Behaviour danger refers to suspicious behaviour that could make kids feel unfamiliar, uncomfortable, unsafe or scared.

Some examples of behaviour danger are unwanted approaches, inappropriate touch that could make kids feel uncomfortable, unwanted stares and random requests on social media for photos or personal information.

It’s also good practice for parents to help their children work out what they should do in a number of ‘what if?’ situations around a range of scenarios, behaviours, tricks and people in which the children solve hypothetical situations for themselves (with more questioning if their first responses are unsafe).

Responses will vary from child to child, as different responses will work for different families, situations or environments.

Police are working with school leaders, parents, whānau and caregivers to teach young children how to detect behaviour danger and deal with them through its Keeping Ourselves Safe (KOS) programme.

“It needs to be a community-wide approach so kids can comfortably talk to their parents and schools about anything that’s bothering them,” says Hutt Central School Principal Michael Gendall.

“We need to have the same message from home and school about behaviours and things that are inappropriate. It’s important for kids to actually learn if it feels like it’s not right, it’s probably not right, and to know what to do. This could be an action from someone that’s known to them, but it could also be from someone that’s not known to them,” says Michael.

“While we acknowledge that parents are playing a more active role in protecting children and sharing information online about suspicious approaches to their kids, we would like to encourage them to work with local Police and schools to ensure that the information they’ll share online is accurate and won’t create unnecessary confusion and concern within our community,” says Paula.

Police are advising parents and caregivers to:

  • teach your child how to get safely to and from school and other places they go – whether they walk, bike or go by bus
  • make clear rules about getting home
  • go to school with your child so you can show them the safest route. Try to use main arterial routes with more people around and avoid walkways and isolated areas
  • teach them to deal with hazards like narrow footpaths or busy roads
  • teach your child to use pedestrian crossings
  • teach the children to walk home together in twos or small groups, not alone
  • make other arrangements if someone is away
  • teach kids that they should call 111 if they have immediate concern about their safety.

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