Stranger danger

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About

Stranger danger refers to the popular idea that "strangers" pose such a threat to children that they should be taught never to talk to them or interact with them in any way.

Materials promoting this message continue to be popular into the 21st century, often being sponsored and distributed by police departments (see: Google search for the opening sentence of one pamphlet written in 2006), despite a number of counterindications:

  • actual child abductions by strangers are extremely rare (most abductions are done by someone known to the child and family; in the US, out of ~800,000 reported abductions, only 115 are abductions by strangers)
  • avoiding or ignoring instructions from strangers can itself sometimes be dangerous.
  • teaching children to be fearful of people they don't know:
    • teaches them distrust and fear as a habit
    • reduces the amount of social interaction a child is exposed to
    • reduces the amount of practice children get at meeting new people
    • arguably erodes the social fabric of communities by preventing children from building social ties

The earliest example of material promoting this message seems to be an educational film, Dangerous Stranger (archive.org), directed by Sid Davis of Hollywood, California and made on his own initiative in the wake of the 1949 molestation and murder of a 6-year-old girl in nearby Los Angeles. Davis went on to make a series of educational safety films, all without consulting any experts.

Terms

Most materials define a "stranger" as someone (implicitly adult, most commonly male) the child (sometimes the child or the child's family) does not know; the implication seems to be that anyone who has not been introduced to the child by a trusted (non-"stranger") adult is a stranger.

Notes

Apparently the NCSU Police Department is one such sponsor; Benjamin came home with "A Child's Guide to Strangerous Situations" in mid-October. Need to scan cover and a few sample pages, make notes on take-home points. The only indication of authorship is "© DJR 2006"; can't find "DJR" or references to the pamphlet online. --Woozle 15:38, 2 November 2009 (UTC)

Links

Reference