Back in the day we were told not to speak to strangers. “Stanger Danger” was a real thing, the term itself rhymed and teaching it made adults feel like they were doing something to ultimately protect their children from the worst thing possible.
However, the campaign didn’t really work – children do not really understand the concept of a stranger. Many believe that strangers come in the form of mean, ugly people – so the nice man asking for help to find his lost puppy? Not a stranger!
In our current interconnected world, meeting and having conversations with strangers is arguably no longer taboo to anyone, especially to young people. In fact, part of the disruption brought in by social networks is the new meaning to the word “friend”, which nowadays refer to “someone in your network”, regardless of whether or not they are known personally.
This, in turn, changes a child’s perception of what is a stranger.
A recent piece of research found 24 per cent of 8-17-year-olds met someone in real life after online encounters and about 50 per cent of children played online games with someone they didn’t know.
What can we, as parents, do?
What can we do to calm ourselves and empower young people to make the right choices?
The most powerful tool is for us to help create a guiding voice in our kids’ heads. We need to help them find the right words to use in certain situations and help them recognise when they need to get help.
Read this article, Children can be exposed to sexual predators online, so how can parents teach them to be safe?, for more great tips and advice on how to guide and support the young people in your life.