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KidSmartz is a child safety program that educates families about preventing abduction and empowers kids in grades K-5 to practice safer behaviors. This program offers resources to help parents, caregivers, and teachers protect kids by teaching and practicing the 4 Rules of Personal Safety using classroom lessons, at-home lessons, parent tips, and fun printable activities.

Overview "Stranger Danger" Child Abductions Common Tricks Videos Resources

Rethinking "Stranger Danger"

“Stranger danger.” It’s short. It’s simple. It even rhymes! But it is not the most effective abduction prevention lesson for our children. 

The concept of “stranger” may be difficult for kids. Many believe that strangers are mean, ugly people — so the nice man asking for help to find his lost puppy? Not a stranger.

Children also should learn that some strangers – like store clerks, police officers, or parents with children – can be helpful when they are in need. It may be hard for kids to understand the difference between strangers who could hurt them and strangers who may help them.  

Most importantly, “stranger danger” ignores the fact that most children are abducted by someone they know. Avoiding strangers will not help if the abductor is a family member, neighbor, or family acquaintance. When you talk to your children about abduction prevention, don’t focus on warning them about certain types of people. Instead, teach them to identify and respond to threatening situations.

Say goodbye to “stranger danger.”

Try using the following language when talking to your child about abduction prevention:

DON'T SAY

Never talk to strangers.

DO SAY

You should not approach just anyone. If you need help, look for a uniformed police officer, a store clerk with a nametag, or a parent with children.

DON'T SAY

Stay away from people you don't know.

DO SAY

It's important for you to get my permission before going anywhere with anyone.

DON'T SAY

You can tell someone is bad just by looking at them.

DO SAY

Pay attention to what people do. Tell me right away if anyone asks you to keep a secret, makes you feel uncomfortable, or tries to get you to go somewhere with them.

Safety Scenarios

In addition to these conversations, use role-playing scenarios to help your children practice their abduction prevention skills. The more children practice, the better prepared they will be to respond to an emergency.

Child Abductions

Of all the questions that cross parents’ minds when they hear about child abductions, the most common question may be how can I stop this from happening to my child?

Some parents try to protect their kids by teaching them about “stranger danger”– but most child abductions involve a relative or someone the child knows. Teaching children about strangers is not enough. Parents should learn when and where children may be at risk of abduction. They should also teach kids about these situations and what to do if they occur. This helps prepare children to act even if the risk of abduction is from someone they know.


When Family Members Abduct

Family abductions occur when relatives break legal custody agreements by keeping kids from their legal guardians. Family abductions usually involve parents taking their children.  An abduction may be more likely to occur if a parent has:

Threatened to abduct or previously abducted the child
No strong ties to the child's home state, but ties to friends and family living in another state/country
Engaged in planning activities (e.g., selling a home, securing records)
A history of marital issues
A history of domestic violence or child abuse

Learn more about the warning signs of family abductions and what you can do to protect your kids. Remember, these warning signs don’t mean an abduction will happen. Also, abductions can occur without any of these warning signs appearing.


What You Should Know About Attempted Abductions

Parents should learn when and where kids are most vulnerable in order to better protect them. In an analysis of attempted abductions, NCMEC found that many:

  • Involved a suspect driving a vehicle
  • Occurred between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
  • Occurred when the child was traveling to or away from school
  • Involved girls and children between the ages of 10 and 14

Teach Children to Take Action

NCMEC’s review revealed one extremely important fact: 83% of children who escaped their would-be abductors did something proactive. They walked/ran away, yelled, kicked, or pulled away. This means the best thing a child can do if someone tries to abduct them is take action instead of being passive or polite. 

Use this information to set up a safety plan for your kids – and don’t forget to include teens in these conversations! You can:

  • Point out places they can go for help when walking places like school and the park.

  • Remind them to travel and stay with a group.

  • Warn them about accepting rides or changing plans without your permission.

  • Teach them the tricks would-be abductors use, such as offering money or asking for help.

  • Encourage them to tell a trusted adult whenever anything or anyone makes them uncomfortable.

  • When it comes to keeping your child safe,  YOU are your child’s best resource!

The Common Tricks

Are you familiar with the news show segments testing children’s safety knowledge? They often feature “strangers” trying to lure children with offers of ice cream, modeling contracts, or other goodies. Too many times, these tricks are successful.

In these scenarios, even children who know better often ignore their safety rules. Would-be abductors count on this. They know that while many children are taught to avoid strangers, they may not be taught to recognize abduction tactics.

NCMEC has noted the use of more than 100 of these tactics. Below are some examples. Review them with your children and  practice a response. The more children practice, the better prepared they will be in a real situation.

The more children practice, the better prepared they will be in a real situation.

THE OFFER TRICK

A child is offered something desirable — like candy, money, toys, or a ride.

BEAT IT

Children should not accept gifts without your permission. Use teachable moments, like when a friend or relative offers a gift, to practice this concept with your child.

A THE ANIMAL TRICK

A cute or interesting animal is used to get the child to follow or enter a vehicle or home.

BEAT IT

Teach your children to never enter anyone’s vehicle or home without your permission.

A THE EMERGENCY TRICK

Someone fakes an emergency and offers to take the child to another location.

BEAT IT

Instruct your child to never go anywhere with anyone without asking the permission of the adult in charge. Have your child practice saying, “I can’t go with you until I check with my mom/dad/teacher” in a firm voice and walking away.

THE HELP TRICK

The child is asked to help with something such as directions, looking for a lost pet, or carrying something.

BEAT IT

Adults should ask other adults for help, not children. Have your child practice saying “I can’t help you” in in a firm voice. Teach children to stand at least one to two arms’ lengths away while interacting with unknown adults.

THE FRIEND TRICK

A person tells the child he or she has been sent by the child’s parent. Sometimes the person actually does know the parent.

BEAT IT

Talk to your child’s school about obtaining permission from you before releasing your child to anyone.

THE “BAD” CHILD TRICK

Someone accuses the child of doing something wrong and says the child must go with him or her.

BEAT IT

Teach your child to always check with you or the adult in charge before going anywhere with anyone. Instruct children to immediately tell you if someone approaches them or tries to take them away.

THE FLATTERY/MODEL TRICK

Someone compliments the child and asks to take his or her picture. The person may promise the child fame or fortune.

BEAT IT

Instruct your child not to accompany anyone anywhere without your permission. Teach older children that a legitimate photographer or casting agency will try to talk to a parent or guardian, not a child.

THE OPEN-THE-DOOR TRICK

Someone tries to get the child to answer the door when the parents aren’t home.

BEAT IT

Remind your children they shouldn’t open the door for anyone when you aren’t home. Let them know legitimate service people will return.

Videos

Tell People 'No'

Tell a Trusted Adult

Resources

Tip Sheets

Preventing Abduction

Safety Scenarios

Going Out Checklist

Setting Physical Boundaries


Activities

Decode the Rule

Take a Friend Maze

Tell People No Crossword

Trusted Adult Word Search


Education Kit

Teach children about personal safety with these project-based lessons for grades K-2 and 3-5. They’ll learn how to be safer through art activities, journal writing, and animated videos. 

Take personal safety to the next level! Use these two bonus lesson plans about  Uncomfortable Touch (K-2, 3-5) and  Surprises vs. Secrets (K-2, 3-5) to teach children about body safety and help prevent child sexual abuse.


Presentation

Use this assembly-style presentation to help children in grades K-5 learn about and practice the four rules of personal safety. You’ll engage kids through discussion, quizzes, music, and animated videos.

SymbolStix

KidSmartz and n2y have teamed up to adapt the KidSmartz Safety Rules into visual symbol sets, ideal for use with special needs students and English language learners.