Stranger Danger

What is Stranger Danger?

Stranger Danger has passed into popular usage as the shorthand for the rules and safety tips children which can be taught to protect themselves from adult strangers. Adages such as, ‘Never accept sweets from a stranger’ form a central part of the concept of Stranger Danger. Crucially children need to understand that a person they do not know can be dangerous even if they are female or look ‘nice’.


At what age do children need to know about stranger danger?

Children as young as 3 or 4 may begin to have an awareness of what it means for someone to be a stranger and to understand why they should not trust them. Some nurseries and pre-schools may provide preliminary training on this subject. Primary and secondary schools follow a Personal and Social Education Programme, where personal safety and the rights of the child are just some of the issues raised. School Community Police Officers visit the schools on a regular basis delivering lessons on personal safety amongst others.

Parents may be concerned about frightening their children by discussing this topic at too early an age. However, most children are now bombarded with media images of missing children and may be reassured by a calm, rational approach to a potentially terrifying subject.


Teaching children about stranger danger

Basic Stranger Danger rules include:

  • never go anywhere with a stranger
  • never accept gifts or sweets from a stranger
  • never get in a car with a stranger
  • never go off on your own without telling your parents or a trusted adult
  • tell your child it is okay to break the rules if they are in danger
  • encourage your child to YELL, KICK, SCREAM, LIE or RUN AWAY, if they feel they are in danger
  • give your child a code word or sign that only you and your child (and another parent/carer) know. They can use it when they feel they are in danger but don’t want other people to know
  • tell your child to stay with their friends and not to go e.g. to the park on their own.



A stranger can be described as someone that we don’t know or someone that we don’t know well. Say that nearly all people are kind but that there are a small number of people who might not be. We cannot tell who is kind just by looking at them. We must never go anywhere with a stranger or do anything for a stranger. It doesn’t matter what they say to us, we should always tell the grown-up who looks after us if a stranger talks to us.


Safer strangers

As well as understanding that some strangers are dangerous, it's important for children to know about adults they can turn to if they are on their own and in trouble.

Safer strangers will usually be wearing a uniform.

Safer strangers could be Police Officers, Police Community Support Officers, traffic wardens, shopkeepers, check-out assistants, paramedics and others. Say we can all recognise them quickly because of their uniforms.

Safer buildings could be banks, post offices, libraries, medical centres, shops, supermarkets, leisure centres and others. If your child can’t see a safer stranger outside they should look for a safer building to go into to ask for help from the people who work there.

Tell the safer stranger their name and where possible the parent / carer’s phone number.

Help your child to learn the safer strangers, safer buildings code gradually, so that it eventually becomes ‘second nature’. Talk about it in a low-key, matter-of-fact way, whenever the opportunity arises naturally. The phrase safer strangers, safer buildings, is a positive alternative, giving children an immediate strategy to use, as part of their growing understanding of stranger awareness.

Safe people and places

Stranger Danger is not just about teaching children who or what to avoid, but also includes positive rules so that children know how to keep themselves safe. For example:

  • Knowing who they can trust if they need help - such as a uniformed Police Officer or a teacher.
  • Having the confidence to trust their instincts if they have a bad feeling about a place or person.
  • Being aware of their surroundings.
  • Learning to be assertive.
  • Knowing that they should tell a trusted adult if they have been approached by a stranger.


Stay close

To prevent your children from getting lost, communication is key - talk to your children about the possibility and what to do if the situation does arise:

  • Encourage your children to stay close to you in shops and to hold onto your hand or the trolley.
  • Use reins or wrist bands on young children in busy places.
  • Don’t leave children unsupervised in play areas.
  • In case they get lost:
    • Teach them to recite their name, address and telephone number.
    • Make sure your children know the store layout and where to locate a member of staff - show them the uniform they wear, you should also point out customer service.
    • Teach them to go and tell a shop assistant with a badge, if they are lost.


If you lose your child

  • Don’t panic - go and tell the closest member of staff or an enquiry desk.
  • Listen carefully to any public address announcements.
  • Alert the shopping centre’s security staff.
  • Enquire at the nearest Police Station.


Tell your children:

  • To STOP - stand still and look around if they are lost, not to run around trying to find you. It is better that you go to them by retracing your steps.
  • If they get lost in the street, DO NOT approach anyone in the street, but instead go to the nearest shop and ask for help.
  • Older children may carry a mobile phone with them – they should call you immediately and stay put.


What should your child do if home alone and someone knocks or rings?

Pre-arrange with your child what they should do if someone knocks. Can they check who it is? If unsure – don’t open the door, phone their parents to check.

Should they answer the phone? Can they check who it is? If they answer they could listen, but not answer or give any information about their situation.


What to do if you need to send someone else to collect your child from school clubs etc.

Make sure you inform the school or organisation of the name of the person who will be collecting your child. If possible make sure your child knows who will be collecting them and make sure your child knows what to do if someone they are not expecting comes to collect them.