'Stranger danger' - safety advice for children

Stranger DangerBefore your children start going out and about on their own, or with friends, you need to discuss the issue of 'stranger danger' and agree what they should do if they get lost or approached by adults or older children they don't know.

It's a tricky balancing act making your child aware of potential danger without creating unnecessary anxiety, so we've canvassed the Talk boards for Mumsnetters' advice.


Avoid using the word 'stranger'

  • Don't say, 'never talk to strangers'. That way they'll never interact with anyone - there are lots of lovely conversations for children to have with strangers on buses and in supermarkets and so on. seeker
  • There are so many situations where children do need to talk to strangers that a little more sophistication is required. HoratiaWinwood
  • Children often don't understand what a stranger is. In addition, a strategy a predator will use is to befriend a child, so they do not view them as a stranger. A scared child is easy prey for a predator. I want to raise confident children who trust their instincts. dontcallmehon 

Find a parent with children

  • I have taught my four year olds that if they get lost, they must: stay together, don't cross roads, go in a shop and ask for help. I have taught them my phone number, so they can say, "please call my mummy, her number is x". If there are no shop security guards etc, ask a lady who has children. Shout my name, instead of Mummy, in crowded places if lost. givemeaclue 
  • We had this chat with our daughter when she'd just turned three. She understands that she has to stay within sight of Mummy, Daddy or whoever she's out with (grandparents etc). She also knows that if she gets lost at the shops, she's to go and tell the person on the till, and that if we're on a day out where there are no shops or tills she should tell a parent who has children with them. TheJoyfulPuddlejumper

Don't keep secrets

  • A really important message to get across is that if somebody tells you to keep a secret that doesn't mean from mum or dad. No nice grown-up would ever ask a child to keep a secret from mum or dad. seeker
  • Our number one rule is that you never have to keep a secret from your parents. You can have surprises, just not secrets. HoratiaWinwood
  • We differentiate between secrets and surprises. If we have a surprise for granddad then we don't tell him, but they know if they did tell by accident no one would be angry really. StealthPolarBear 

Role play scenarios

  • Do some 'what if?' scenario practice, eg see that nice lady/man, what if she/he asks you to help find lost kitty, what would you do? What if she/he has some yummy treats they want to give you etc. pennefab
  • We have role-played the following: an adult comes and asks you to help them look for their little girl, what would you do? An adult comes and says your mummy told me to come and get you, what would you do? An adult comes and says would you help me look for my puppy, what would you do? margoandjerry

Use books and stories

  • I have a book called Come and Tell Me. It's a story about a little girl who goes off somewhere without telling her mother. It ends with the mother saying to the child she must come and tell her when she goes off. Both of my sons have had it read to them. It's not scary, but it gets the message across. saltire
  • Stranger Danger? by Anne Fine is well-written but also a common-sense approach which gives the opportunity to discuss the issues a bit, without scaring everyone witless. rosaparks
  • I've just bought the Duchess of York's book, Daisy Learns about Strangers. It is a really simple narrative about a little girl walking off in a shop and what happened next, how it upset her mummy, made her scared and who she should go to etc. Carnival

Code words

  • Someone around here tried to pick up a little girl on the way home from school last week. Her parents had established a secret word that any approved person would know if they had really sent someone to pick her up. It worked, she asked for the word and ran away when he didn't know it. I think that is a fabulous idea. MyShoofly
  • My mum used a password system with us. We weren't allowed to go with anyone unless they had the password. It meant that if mum or dad couldn't pick us up they would tell them the password to tell us, so we would know it was safe. The password was changed each time it was used. SiriusStar

Safe houses

  • When my daughters go out, one of them has a mobile phone and she knows if I need or want her that I will always go myself or phone. So if anyone says, "your mum says you must come with me" they know they are lying. They know in such scenarios to shout, "no" and run to the nearest safe house. These are simply houses of people we know around the estate that if they needed some help, they could run there. LadyLetch

Make a rhyme

  • My daughters have been taught a little rhyme that they both know off by heart: I don't go anywhere, with anyone, without checking with my mum. Letchlady

Learn and prepare

  • I said to my daughter, if she loses me to tell them my name and what I look like. I am Chinese and my daughter is not, so she is planning to say "my mum has a Chinese face". mefifi
  • My daughter is now four but from about three and a half has known our address off by heart, my first and last name, her dad's first and last name and her nan's first and last name, so that if she got lost and someone asked her for information, she could tell them. NoMoreCakeOclock
  • I put an envelope in their pockets with their name and address etc on, and I write my mobile number on their hands when out and about. zzzzz
  • Teach them their name, address and telephone number as soon as possible, and your name -especially important if your surname is different. exoticfruits 

Some golden rules

  • I told my children that I would be very worried and upset if I didn't know where they were, so they couldn't go anywhere with anyone unless we, my husband or I, actually told them. That even meant friends' mummies and daddies or anyone who said, "your mummy said". Pagwatch
  • I have always said to my daughter that she is never to go anywhere with anyone for any reason unless she checks first, be that the next door neighbour, a friend's parent or a complete stranger. I impress that it is my job to know that she is safe and that it is important that I can trust her. Portofino
  • The important thing is that they know they must be able to see you, so you can see them, and that they must never go anywhere - even into houses or cars of friends etc - without coming and checking. BackforGood
  • I taught my children that if they were ever lost, or lost me, they were to stand still and go nowhere. I said it would be easier to find them again if they stayed where they were, rather than if they wandered around. If anyone said they would help find their mummy, they had to say that they weren't allowed to move anywhere but that person can stay and wait with them if they wanted to. chicaguapa
  • I have said to my son, if anyone says you have to kiss them or hug them etc and you don't want to, then it's fine to say no. Had to speak about that as we do have some relatives who are quite forceful and I just don't want my children to believe they are not allowed to say no. Firawla
  • What you need to teach your child is that it is OK to tell a grown-up no if they do something you don't like and they are to tell you immediately even if the grown-up tells them not to. And that includes great-aunt Agnes pinching her cheeks. Tee2072

Last updated: about 3 years ago