ANDREW LEIBENGUTH/TIMES NEWS Mike Boyer, a 5th Degree Black Belt Goshi Ryu Ju Jitsu instructor at Martial Arts USA in Tamaqua, uses drawings and physical activities to teach Scouts the importance of understanding what a bad stranger is and how to safely get away.
Can your kids identify a bad stranger ... or better yet, have the courage or knowledge to get away?
Every 40 seconds in the United States, a child becomes missing or is abducted. In 2001, 840,279 people (adults and children) were reported missing to the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC). The FBI estimates that 85 to 90 percent of those (roughly 750,000 people or 2,000 per day) reported missing were children.
As children, we've all been taught the basic rules concerning 'stranger danger.' Some of which include: never travel alone, never accept rides from strangers, get away if you feel threatened, only go with people your parents say you can trust and so on.
In our schools and youth organizations, our children are still taught these rules.
Some experts warn about 'stranger danger' because it might scare our kids instead of protect them. According to many child safety websites, most children do not understand what a "bad" stranger actually is. That it can cause some kids to be confused or even avoid rescuers when they need help.
Information on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's website encourages parents to follow a number of safety guidelines for parents to follow, ranging from simply talking to your children to teaching them how to get away.
The website tells grown-ups to establish "safe houses" where kids feel comfortable in knocking on their door at any time a situation warrants it. Be sure to get approval from the neighbors/homeowners first before designating a home as a "safe house." If possible, have a neighborhood safety tip meeting and have residents agree to watch after one another.
Parents should not become lax about kids going to a friend's home in a neighborhood even if it is only a few doors away. Snatchings can happen in an instant; even under a parent's watchful eye. The key is to keep an eye on a youngster when out front. Older youth should be instructed to call when they arrive at a friend's home for peace of mind and as a good safety tip practice.
Never let kids play out in the front yard alone without direct supervision by an adult. There are too many opportunities for endangerment or other types of accidents. A back yard is a much safer, and more private, option.
If at all possible, an adult should greet youngsters as they get off a school bus, and not have them walk home alone.
Parents should be cautious about blatant use of a child's name on a back pack or jacket. Kids sometimes believe that a person can't be a stranger if they know them by name, when the reality is that their name was easily readable on their attire or the individual heard a youngster's name mentioned.
Adults should understand that boys are at just as greatest of risk as girls. It is a common safety tip misconception that child molesters or perpetrators are typically men and seek only girls. Molesters come in all ages and both genders, and their victims can be of either sex.
Parents should begin reinforcing these safety tips as soon as a kid is old enough to understand, and above all, ensure that their child feels comfortable enough in discussing these issues, their concerns or fears, or any potentially inappropriate events that have possibly transpired. Awareness of these safety tips can help kids be less susceptible to any stranger dangers.
Most strangers aren't dangerous and wouldn't do anything to hurt kids. Unfortunately, though, some strangers can be dangerous, and it's impossible to tell who's good and who's not. It is important to tell your children that a dangerous person doesn't necessarily look scary or mean the person might look nice.
Learning how to avoid and get away from "bad" strangers, Tamaqua Cub Scouts and their parents spent time Wednesday evening at USA Martial Arts in Tamaqua learning about "stranger danger." The lessons, donated by Mike Boyer, a 5th Degree Black Belt Goshi Ryu Ju Jitsu instructor, involved staying safe, good touch/bad touch, right to say no, knowing what a stranger is, knowing where trusted adults are and getting away.
Boyer also explained various forms of lures used by "bad" strangers, such as gift, items received, "I need help," threat, name recognition and authority lures. In addition, Boyer gave the Scouts a few escape tips.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children asks parents to take 25 minutes to talk to their children about safety, abduction prevention and ways to identify a bad stranger. One way to do this is via their Take 25 program. Take 25 provides free safety resources to help keep children safer including safety tips, conversation starters and event planning guides; in addition to heightening awareness about child safety issues. To learn more about this campaign visit www.Take25.org.