About RTÉ Television
The Afternoon Show
The Afternoon ShowRTÉ One, Weekdays, 4.00pm

Parenting with Grainne Ryan - Stranger Danger

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Grainne Ryan is here to talk about the importance of teaching your child about personal safety & Awareness

Grainne Ryan:
Presenter of Baby on Board Series 2. Grainne is a public health nurse and midwife and mother of three children. Areas of interest child development, parenting issues, adolescent development and post natal depression and works as a public health nurse in Ennis Co. Clare.

Why is there no longer much support for the 'Don't Talk to Strangers' campaign that we would have been brought up on?
The problem with a campaign like this is that it doesn't distinguish between good and bad strangers, meaning the child may be afraid to ask for help if they are in trouble as they have been told not to approach strangers. Children can take things very literally and don't have the ability that adults do to distinguish between different strangers. By telling them not to talk to any strangers we could be eliminating a possible source of help for them if they are in trouble eg if they get lost in a shopping centre

From what age should we be teaching our children about
'stranger danger'?

Children need to know the difference between right and wrong. If children are not taught this from an early age if will be very difficult to bring up the topic of strangers with your child. Parents use different style of parenting, some may be quiet strict while others do not believe in boundaries and this may lead to problems when exploring the topic with your child.

Should we be telling kids to be fearful of bad strangers?
Again bear in mind your main aim is to instill confidence not fear. Use plain, simple language that they understand. Talk about "good" stranger and "bad stranger". Point them out when you go shopping, uniforms etc. A bad stranger is someone who attempts to engage with them who they don't know.

What kind of language should we use?
When discussing the topic with your child remember you are trying to instill confidence rather than imposing fear on them.

Make sure the advice you give is age appropriate

Young children
. Teach your child their name, address, and phone number from an early age
. Use the buddy system-always stay with a friend
. Let them know that if they are worried about something the can talk to you or another trusted adult
. Check with a parent before accepting anything from a stranger, or someone they don't know very well

Older children
. Stay with friends rather than going somewhere alone
. Always tell a parent where you are going
. Trust your instincts - if you feel you are being followed or something is not right, seek help immediately.
. Bring up the topic in the guise of a role play out scenarios. This gives you an opportunity to assess their awareness and guide them at their particular level of learning.

What extra advice do we need to give children when going on holidays?
Go through basic safety procedures with your child i.e what your child should do if he/she gets lost, what they can and cannot do, not talking or going off with strangers, teach them some basic words in the native language such as their name where they are from, your mobile phone numbers etc
Give basic information about the surrounding, where they are going, where it is located, local landmarks etc
Give them time to become accustomed to their surroundings before giving them too much freedom
Sometimes being on holiday relaxes us, gives us a false sense of security and lulls us into taking shortcuts and risks with our child's safety that we would never take at home, e.g. leaving a young child unsupervised or unmonitored while we socialize

What should we teach a child to do if they become lost?
If your child gets lost while part of a group or in a shopping centre/ town tell them to approach a shop assistant or security guard at the nearest shop. Give their details to shop assistant or security guard. For the older child with a mobile phone get them to use it. For the older child when part of a group have a meeting point which is within public view.

As a parent, what can we do to protect our children?
. Avoid risky situations - leaving children alone in cars even for a few minutes, clothes with their names on them
. Be a good role model - treat this whole issue seriously but calmly
. Seek professional help if your child has a bad experience
. Be aware of the dangers the web pose for children.

What is the AMBER system?
A new alert system aimed at informing the authorities and the public about children who have gone missing and may be in danger, is to be established. On the 15th April, Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Dermot Ahern said that he has given the go-ahead to the 'Amber Alert' system, which will be similar to initiatives operating in other countries.

The AMBER system stands for America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and was originally established in the US following the abduction and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas in 1995.

Amber alerts are usually put into action when there is reason to believe that a missing child has been abducted or kidnapped, or if the child is in imminent danger of serious injury of death. It is also necessary that there is sufficient information to describe the missing child and the circumstances in which they disappeared.

The Amber Alert system is used to track missing children by transmitting media bulletins, similar to weather warnings. The system will usually involve the rapid sharing of information about missing children, including photographs.