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Say No to Stranger Danger: Check First!

At the Madison Police Department, we steer away from using the term "Stranger Danger."

The fact of the matter is this:

Most of the people in the world are good and helpful!

We don't want our kids to think that they can't ever approach a stranger to ask for assistance, because there might come a time when they have to!

  • They might have to ask a clerk at the grocery store for help finding their mom or dad.
  • If they are walking home from school and there is an emergency situation, they might have to turn to an unknown neighbor who is outside mowing his lawn and ask that he call 911.

For reasons such as these, we prioritize teaching kids what we refer to as The First Rule of Safety:

Check First before you go anywhere with anyone (for any reason at any time)!

  • Check with the adult who is in charge of you at the time.
  • If you cannot check, then the answer is NO!

Other language that we use to talk to kids about safety includes:

  • Adults can get help from other adults. You do not need to help anyone find a lost puppy, unload a truck, or find their way unless you Check First. If an adult that you do not know asks you for help, tell them that you will get your mom or your dad or your babysitter to come and help them, and report what is happening to your grown up right away!!
  • Know your full name, address, and telephone number with the area code. Know your parents' or guardians' names, too.
  • Use the buddy system; go in groups. There is strength in numbers!
  • If you are separated or lost from your parent or buddy, freeze and then yell your parent's or buddy's first and last name. You may ask a clerk or mother with children to go get help for you, but remember to stay where you are. Imagine that you have glue on your shoes.
  • If anyone tries to move or hurt you, make sure you scream, kick, fight, and yell, "You're not my dad (or mom)!"

I always remind parents that practice makes perfect. Rehearse with your children different scenarios when The First Rule of Safety might apply.

  • You are playing at the park and a man asks you if you want to take a walk with him to see his dog. What do you do? (Check first before you go anywhere with anyone.)
  • You are walking home from school and your friend's mom invites you to come into their house for cookies and milk. What do you do? (Check first before you go anywhere with anyone.)

You can compare practicing for these types of situations to fire and tornado drills in schools. These things will probably never happen, but we need to know how to respond just in case. We want to make sure that our children are prepared, not scared! Remind your children to Check First in their daily lives. This simple rule is good practice, in general, and could keep them safe in a potentially harmful situation.