What Is The Appropriate Age To Discuss "Stranger Danger" With Your Children?

Safety Tips, Child Abductions - Preventing Child Abductions
United States
April 19, 2007 3:31pm CST
My 2 daughters take the school bus home. The bus lets them off 3 blocks from our house. I meet them at the bus stop and walk them home. My daughters are 6 and 7 years old. My husband has suggested that, to gain some independence, they should start walking home by themselves without my having to meet them at the stop. I am not crazy about this idea. My mom didn't let me start walking home without her until I was 8 years old, and even then, I had to walk with a classmate who had lived a couple blocks away from us. So, last night, I sat down with my daughters to have the "Stranger Danger" talk. Asking them what would they do if a car pulled up to them, and the driver started talking to them, etc....etc. I just brought up a couple of scenarios, and discussed them with the girls. My older daughter knew what to do in most cases, and before last night, she was very eager to start this "walking home alone" adventure. After the discussion, both girls decided that they still wanted me to meet them at the bus stop, and I agreed, since I felt that they were too young, yet. When my husband got home from work last night, I told him of the talk that the girls and I had, and he thinks that I made them too paranoid, and that they will never want to walk home alone, ever. I explained to him that I felt they were too young to begin with, and reminded him that a stranger attempted to abduct me when I was about 10 years old, walking home from school. (At that age, I no longer had to walk with someone, I was allowed to walk alone). He tried to tell me that what happened to me, happened in New Jersey, and we live in West Virginia now. I reminded him that child abductions can happen anywhere. He's seen the news. And it happens to children at any age. He's made me feel that I am being too over-protective. I totally support the idea of my children gaining their independence, but it should happen gradually throughout their childhood. Isn't it my job to be teaching my daughters safety? Am I being too over-protective? I'm not trying to scare my girls, and they are aware how to handle certain situations if they were ever to occur.
12 people like this
23 responses
• United States
19 Apr 07
My husband and I have both been talking to our children about strangera since they were three or so. I don't think that you can start too early or be too safe. Our son is almost seven and I sometimes let him bring our dog out front to go the bathroom and he thinks he is being independent but I usually watch him from thr front windows.
3 people like this
• United States
19 Apr 07
I have a neighbor right across the street from me, who has 2 children, ages 4 and 5. She will let her son, the 5 year old, go out to the mailbox sometimes to retrieve the mail. Our mailboxes are located at the curbs in front of our houses in my area. She will stand there at the door and watch him, mainly because he has to take a step out onto the street to open the mailbox. I don't think she'll let her daughter, the 4 year old, do it anytime soon. She's prone to just running out into the street, and running up the street. Thank you for your comment!
2 people like this
• Canada
19 Apr 07
I was five years old when I started kindergartern, and Mom started talking to me about the danger of strangers. When I was in grade 1 I was six, and walked to school with my sister who was 10. when I was 8 and in grade 3, she started grade 7 at a new school, and I walked to school and back, alone.
2 people like this
• United States
19 Apr 07
My mom always taught me about stranger danger the minute I started kindergarten, and even about not going off with adults that I did know, unless it was a pre-planned thing. One time, a friend of hers was at school picking up her son, who was in my class, and saw me still waiting on my mom. I was in first grade, I think. She coaxed me into going home with her, and my mom would pick me up there. I know that I knew better, but I went with her, anyway, because I trusted her. Boy, did I get a beating that night! Thank you for commenting!
1 person likes this
• Canada
20 Apr 07
You got a BEATING???? Your mother BEAT you? D@MN! If I were your mother I would have firmly reminded you that you broke what you'd already agreed not to break, and then I would have given her friend proper h3ll for not listening when you said "no"
• Canada
20 Apr 07
You got a beating? That's awful that your mother BEAT you!! If I were her I would have told you that it was wrong to break a rule you promised not to break, and then I would have given the friend h3ll for not listening when you said NO!
@ravinskye (8242)
• United States
19 Apr 07
i think that they are too young to walk home alone. i don't think you made them too paranoid. i think they should be a little paranoid. its the kids that are too trusting that get suckered into getting into the car with a stranger. i think until you and they both feel comfortable that you should continue to meet them. and then when they are ready, start out slow..maybe meet them half way. or like you used to, see if they can walk with someone else (if possible)
2 people like this
• United States
19 Apr 07
I totally agree. At this point in time, the three of us are just not ready to make that leap. I don't want them to be scared, and I enjoy the time walking with them, anyway. Thank you for your comment!
1 person likes this
• United States
19 Apr 07
Thank you for your comment! I totally agree. At this point in time, my girls and I are just not ready to make that leap. Maybe when the new school year starts, and if they're still riding the school bus, then we'll see.
1 person likes this
@emeraldisle (13145)
• United States
20 Apr 07
I think your daughters were well within the age to hear about stranger danger. That is something they need to know about. I think in that case you were right on the money. As for walking home a lot would depend on how far is the bus stop, what type of street it is and is it on the same street you live or another. If it's just at the corner and you can see it from your window then they are old enough to walk home together. However if it's on another street then no I think they should be met still. They aren't quite old enough to be alone if they have to go over several streets.
• United States
20 Apr 07
Our bus stop is 3 blocks away, and I can't see it from my house. I have to walk down to the corner of our street to be able to see down to the bus stop. To my eyes, it isn't far from our street to the stop, but to a child their age, 3 blocks can seem like a million miles. Thank you very much for your comment!
@fawcey (928)
• Australia
20 Apr 07
My husband and I have always let our son know to some extent about stranger danger from very young. Our son is now four and the main things he we have talked about is, never talk to strangers, never go with or take anything from a stranger, if someone makes him feel sad or hurts him no matter who it is to tell us. They went quite into it at preschool when he was in trasition and only 3 and a half. He went through a bit of a stage where he was scared of everyone evne people he knew but we explained things a bit more in detail and made him feel safer but also to still be aware. Also I think the term stranger danger needs to be changed as sometimes it is someone we think we know and trust that can abuse ones trust so a kid should learn that no matter who it is if they think or feel uncomfertable about something to say no and then talk to you about it. I don't think you are being over protective as the world I'm afraid is a scary place but I think it is scarier if you don't know or are not prepared or equipt to deal with things that may arise or be confronted with. Abductions and things can happen no matter where we live so I think it is wise to be cautious and educate your children so they can help keep themselves safe. I wish you all the best. I think you should go with your gut feeling and what if your girls want you to still meet them at the bus stop I think this is good. As to me 6 and 7 is still to young to be alone in this world.
• United States
20 Apr 07
My older daughter is naturally out-going. When she was younger, especially as a baby and toddler, she was friendly to everyone she met, and trusted everyone. As she's gotten older, she has a slight shyness to her. She is still friendly to everyone, but it takes a little while to gain her trust. My younger daughter has always been severely shy and is still very shy. It takes a long time to gain her trust, but once you have her trust, you're "in" with her. Thank you for your comment and wishes!
@smartmom (827)
• United States
20 Apr 07
In my opinion you are so absolutely right about being protective of your daughters, and although independence is a great thing, we really have to remember that things are changing, and they are so much different than when we were growing up ...even in West Virginia. You have had a traumatic experience that might taint your windows a little, when you are looking at this subject, and although I think that is important for you to remember (as it seems you do) and be aware of this, I really do not think you are being over-protective in this situation. I began talking to let my son know about age two, that he needed to always be where he could see me, when we were out in public, and at age three I extended the talk to concern strangers. He is now four, and I have begun to talk more about the subject with him. We just moved to Miami from northern Europe, and these are two completely contrasting societies. I think for this reason, I am really beginning to educate him about his own safety, because the security that he took for granted in Denmark does not exist in Miami. We often se young kids on the streets around here, or on their bikes, and he tells me. "Mommy that boy should not be out there without his mother." It seems like he understands, what I am telling him, but I think it will take a few years before he really understands. For now I let him play in our yard, as long as I can see him from the window. I really think that you are doing a great job with talking to your girls about saftety and strangers, and I feel that as their mother, you know best. You know what your children are capable of and what they are not, and you know whether your child is able to stand up for herself in every situation. I personally would not let my son go alone until he was 8 or 9, as the kids at this age have a completely different understanding of life than a 5 or 6 year old.
• United States
20 Apr 07
Your son seems to have a good understanding and grasp regarding what you're teaching him. That is really great. What a culture shock it must have been for your family, especially your son. It sounds like he is adjusting well to his new home. It seems like you are doing a great job, too, with raising him, and you are to be commended. Thank you so much for your response!
2 people like this
@all4ucnc (861)
• United States
20 Apr 07
As a parent it's your job to let your child know of the dangers out there...My kids are 5 and nearly 3 and we have had these talks already, I actually live in a small town, but we go the big city to do shopping. And so I have told them of the dangers of getting hit in parking lots by other cars, and of strangers who may want to keep them for themselves... No matter where you live, there is danger for our small children, and unless you let them know about it, they will continue to feel they are invincable in this large playground. Ilove my children dearly, I would feel like I failed as a parent if my children didn't have a little fear about the real world.. My son got a hard dose of reality about playing on the road when our dog got hit last summer, he hadn't grasped the concept of what we kept telling him about getting hit by a car...The other day while planting flowers I heard him telling his little sister what would happen to her if she played up on the road. Your doing a fine job, it's the kids that are left in the dark about the truths, that are playing with fire, running in the roads, and taking candy from strangers.
2 people like this
• United States
20 Apr 07
Thank you so much for your comment! That's exactly how I see it, that I would feel like a failure and not doing my parental job if I didn't teach them about the dangers of the outside world. I'm so sorry that your son had to deal with his dog getting hit, but in a way, if that's what it took to finally get him to understand the dangers of being out in the street, then I guess your dog's sacrifice was worth it in a way.
1 person likes this
@Foxxee (3653)
• United States
19 Apr 07
Weird how different states have different laws. Here, a 6 year old or even an 8 year old can't be outside without an adult. Every parent or gardian has to be at the bus stop and walk the child home. If not the bus driver returns the child back to the school and then the school tries to contact the family. My neighbore had her 8 year old outside playing with no adults, he was just playing in a sandbox and the police showed up and then CPS was called and she was fined and was told if the child is out alone again without an adult, she would go to jail. Something to look into. I would check on the age of a child that can be out and about, even if just right outside or walking home alone without an adult. Some people don't know that it is in fact punishable to let a child under a certain age alone outside. Even walking home from school. Whatever you decide, check with your state laws, call the police station and just ask, they will let you know. Good luck. By the way, it's never to late or to early to teach a child about the stranger danger safety.
2 people like this
• United States
19 Apr 07
Those are excellent points to ponder! I will have to look into that. At my kids' bus stop, there is only one other parent besides me who meets the bus. Her daughter is in kindergarten also. I know that in my neighborhood, I do see little kids around my daughters' ages outside playing alone. One time, 2 of my older daughter's classmates, both boys, rode their bikes from the next street over to our house to visit her. They are a year older than her, as she started school earlier than most kids in her grade. And I do let my kids go out front once in a great while, but I am on the porch or right in the living room where I can see them. Other than that, they will play in the backyard, which has a 6 foot privacy fence all around. But what you mentioned is definitely something I will look into. Thank you for commenting!
1 person likes this
@ESKARENA1 (18299)
19 Apr 07
i have two daughters aged 5 and 7 and we both feel it is never too early to discuss keeping away from strangers. Both our two are now well versed on what to do if an adult they dont know tries to speak to them, i think in this day and age its vital blessed be
2 people like this
• United States
19 Apr 07
I totally agree with you! It's sad that we have to teach our children this at all, at such young ages, but it is vital. I'm also going to look into a class to teach them self-defense. Thank you for commenting!
1 person likes this
• Canada
19 Apr 07
i think when kids start going to school this needs to be taught. they are getting a little more independent and arent' with you all the time any more. also if someone tries to come pick them up at school you need to have a code word for them so no stranger can just come to grab them. i'm working on it with my duaghter right now. she is 3 1/2 but is starting school in the fall. so she is kind of learning at a slow pace. i try to put it in every day situation. i don't want to just sit her down and have a long conversation cuase i know it might scare her in going to school.
2 people like this
• United States
19 Apr 07
Thank you for your comment! We went over that also, about picking a password. I've heard of situations where someone will attempt to pick a child up at school, without the parent's or guardian's permission.
2 people like this
@wachit14 (3600)
• United States
19 Apr 07
I think once children enter public school (around five or six years old) they are old enough to start learning about the dangers of talking to strangers. In this day and age, it is very important that children understand the idea of protecting themselves. I don't think that it makes them paranoid, but they should be very aware of their surroundings and the people around them. You are also right to believe that child abductions can happen anywhere and, if your children feel the need to still have you meet them at the bus stop, then continue to do so until they are ready to walk home without you escorting them.
• United States
19 Apr 07
Thank you for your comment! A plus about teaching them when they enter school, at least in my area, is that a couple times a week, a police officer visits their school and meets with a couple of classes. I don't know how much he has touched on this subject, but I think he mostly covers D.A.R.E. programs
1 person likes this
• United States
19 Apr 07
Absolutely, our job as parents is to educate our children about the dangers of life. You're not being over-protective, just looking out for their safety. As for your husband's comment, I'm not sure which part of West Virginia you are from but we just had an 11 year old girl abducted and raped in North Wheeling. And right after that happened a man tried to get a 6 year old child to get in the car with him. Luckily, the child had been educated on the danger previously and was able to run into a house close by. Children can be abducted in any state, that has nothing to do with it. I beleive every parent should start educating their children on Stranger danger as young as possible.. My daughter is 5 and we started with her around 2, not directly saying be careful or some strange bad man will kidnap you, just more so in a round about kind of way. Maybe you could show your husband the info. and police sketch on this Wheeling abduction to help peek his awareness. Just go to www.FBI.gov. this should show him that just because he lives in West Virginia doesn't mean he should let his guard down. Children of all ages and all over the United States are being abducted and worse. You did the best thing by educating them.Better to have them paranoid then to not have them at all. Hopefully, this was helpful in some way. Have a good evening.
• Canada
19 Apr 07
My mother discussed it with me when I was in kindergartern, age the age of 5. When I started grade 1, I began to walk back and forth to school along with my sister who was in grade 5. When I was in grade 3, Becky started grade 7, and went to a different school, so I walked to school alone from that point on.
2 people like this
• United States
20 Apr 07
I worked at a daycare for two years before going off the college. At the daycare we began teaching children about "stranger danger" at the ages of 2 and 3. Children should be aware that there are bad people in the world who might try to harm them, but I do not believe it should be a topic of everday discussion. I do not think you are overreacting with your girls. I think you are doing the right thing by still meeting them at the bus stop.
• United States
20 Apr 07
I like the idea of daycare centers teaching children to be aware. I agree that the earlier, the better. Thank you very much for your comment!
• United States
20 Apr 07
I can only say you have to think of what if. This is all I need to think of and it's done. I walked my daughter to school most all her life. I stopped being mother hover when she was in the 6th grade. I often picked up up from school as I had a car. I can't ever feel your 100% wrong here. I know kids need to know how to be independent. I don't think walking home alone is needed. Your kids take a bus home they could very well still meet problems. You have had the talk with them great. Maybe you can be a block away from the bus. In eye shot of them seeing you. I can't agree with letting them walk home yet. Sorry if you were looking for another answer. The news has shown us so much. One is we can never say never with safety. Your husband is right with his views on this. He is also not home as you are. Personally i feel if the mother is home. She should be able to meet the kids half way. You don't have to go hold their hands home. Be a few inches away. let them walk toward you. while you walk toward home. They still can be learning to be independent with a feeling of security. Your the mother blanket they will always need.
1 person likes this
• United States
20 Apr 07
I think you got me and my husband mixed up. I'm the one who feels that they are too young to walk home alone, and he's the one who thinks that I may make them paranoid because I tried to make them aware of danger. My daughters and I did try letting them walk one block by themselves, the day after we had the discussion. My younger daughter is totally against the idea to begin with. I agree that since I am home anyway, that I should meet them. Thank you very much for your response.
@SDToombs (29)
• United States
20 Apr 07
I used to work as a counselor with children and adolescents. I taught seminars in local schools about "Stranger Danger" as you call it. We started with the 1st grade because that's when kids typically begin doing more activities away from their parents and are spending more time out on their own. Children need to be taught that there are dangers in the world. Hiding it from them does them a disservice and could potentially put them at risk.
1 person likes this
• United States
20 Apr 07
I totally agree! They need to be aware, and you are correct, around the 1st grade, even sooner, children are doing more activities away from home. Thank you so much for your comment and telling about your experience!
@beaniegdi (1966)
20 Apr 07
Unfortunately children don't always understand the stranger danger thing, we once had a real strange guy wanting to buy my son an ice cream at the shop, I was there and my son was about 5. I had to go home and call the police on him and it turned out he had been wandering into peoples houses so the police where already looking out for this guy. My son thought he was nice as he wanted to buy him an ice cream and we had had the talk. If some one is nice to them they don't see the dangers, they think the dangerous strangers will seem bad and horrible when in fact they will come to them all friendly and nice. I don't blame you for being protective as the 6 year old I would have thought was too young and the 7 year old too young to be responsible for the 6 year old. I would think maybe when they are 7 and 8 would be better, especially if they are having to cross roads.
• India
20 Apr 07
no no, you are not being over-protective specially when there are two girls concerned. please take every precaution possible and make them understand every conceivable situation. i am sure they are intelligent enough to appreciate your ideas without being scared too much. a little scare is necessary to keep young children on the right path. your husband also has the best intentions of his daughters at heart, but you being the mother more responsibility lies with you. you cant cry over spilt milk, its best to take every precaution while you can.
1 person likes this
• United States
20 Apr 07
I totally agree, and I know that my husband has good intentions also. Luckily, it hasn't been a huge issue. When it comes down to it, I am home during the day, and it's my responsibility to ensure that they are safe. Thank you very much for your comment!
• United States
20 Apr 07
As soon as you start your children sending to kindergarten you should teach about stranger danger.
1 person likes this
• United States
20 Apr 07
I agree. Maybe actually even a little sooner than that, especially when a child goes to preschool. Thank you for your comment!
• United States
20 Apr 07
I begin teachin my grandchildren about avoiding stranger at the age of 2. I think they have a good understanding of right and wrong about that age.
1 person likes this
• United States
20 Apr 07
Thank you for your comment. It's great for grandparents to get involved and teach grandchildren the dangers.
1 person likes this