Stranger safety

Stranger safety

Although stranger abduction is rare, you must teach your child how to be safe.

  • Talk to your child about stranger safety. Remember, child abductors don't always look or act differently. A stranger is someone your child may see at the playground, but does not know.
  • Always go with your child to the bathroom when in a public place. Do not let your child wander in a store alone.
  • Do not leave your child alone to play outside.
  • Walk your child to and from the bus stop.
  • Practice scenarios where strangers may try to entice or grab your child:
    • "My puppy is lost. Can you help me find it?"
    • "Your parents are hurt and asked me to take you to the hospital."
    • "I'm lost. Can you tell me how to get to the store? I have a toy or candy for you."
    • Talk to your child in a calm, loving way so they don't become scared. Reinforce these scenarios every now and then. Just telling them once isn't enough.
  • Teach your child how to scream, run or kick if a stranger tries to take them.
  • Identify a "safe house" in your neighborhood or apartment/townhouse complex your child can go to if they are threatened or locked out of your house. Create a "safe plan" with the neighbors to return or pick up your child.
  • Teach your child about "good" touch and "bad" touch. Use proper names for body parts.
  • Teach your child to tell you if they feel uncomfortable around any adult or older child. Create a loving environment so your child will feel safe talking about their feelings.
  • Boost your child's self-esteem. Children who are confident aren't as vulnerable as children who have low self-esteem and a lack of parental supervision.

Keep current photos of your child and know their height and weight.

Teach your child to trust and respect police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses and other public safety people.

According to the FBI, other tips for making sure your child is safe include:

  • Share a secret code word with your child. Make it a word that is easy to remember. Share this code word with family and friends.
    • Tell your child to ask for the code word if a stranger asks for them to go somewhere (to find a missing pet, to go to the hospital).
    • If the stranger doesn't know the code word, tell your child to scream and run away as fast as possible.
  • Tell your child that adults should not ask kids to do things other adults can do for them. Adults should not ask your child for directions, to get in a car, to help them do something.
    • If asked for help, your child should say, "Wait here and I'll check with my mom" and run for help.
  • If your child gets separated from you in a public place, find an employee to help find your child. Tell your child to do the same. Tell your child not to hide if they are scared.
  • Tell your child to talk to you before:
    • going anywhere with anyone
    • leaving the yard, play area or going into someone's home
    • getting a ride with someone other than the bus driver
    • getting into a car or going somewhere with someone even if it's a person you know
  • Teach your child to stay away if someone follows them on foot or in a car. Remind your child not to go near a car to talk to the people inside.
  • Teach your child that it's OK to say "no."
  • Have your child fingerprinted and keep the fingerprints in a safe place.
  • Teach your child their full name, address and phone number. Teach them when to share this information.
  • Teach your child how to use the telephone and how to dial 911.

For more information on child safety, visit the following websites:

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the largest number of missing children are runaways, followed by family abductions and lost, injured or otherwise missing children. The least common type of missing children, nonfamily abductions, has the greatest risk of injury or death for the abducted child.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education, Guide for the Care of Children: Ages Birth to 5, sixth edition, ped-ah-91554
First Published: 02/01/2010
Last Reviewed: 11/16/2022