Group of children roasting marshmallows at a campsite

Summer Safety Matters – Unfamiliar Faces

Visiting relatives, attending pool parties, and having sleepovers with friends are favorite summer pastimes, and are great places for your child to make new friends. These activities are great fun, but it’s important to be cautious of the many unfamiliar faces that your child will be seeing. With some precautions and important conversations with your child, they will be able to spend time with others, make new friends, and stay safe.

Important Conversations to Have:

  • Talk to your child about real-world dangers. Explain that it’s not safe for them to be alone with one adult, or to visit inappropriate websites with their friends.
  • Remind them that the rules you establish apply at all times, whether they are at home or not.
  • Establish a private code word for them to text you if they feel unsafe and need to be picked up.
  • Talk to any person who will be supervising your child, and let them know the rules you have set and your expectations of safety.
  • Ask your child specific questions when they get home like who was there, what did they do, and if they were in any unsafe situations.

Safe vs Unsafe Strangers:

Children playing tug-a-war

Many times, children are taught to avoid strangers by well-meaning adults who think that will keep them safe. Yet, it is hard to avoid strangers. Adults speak to strangers every day, for example when they’re at a store, or just saying hello in passing to be polite. It often becomes common for children to think that “bad-looking” strangers are dangerous and “nice-looking” strangers are okay. However, children must be taught that no one can tell if strangers are nice or not nice just by looking at them, and that they should be cautious around all strangers.

If a child needs help (for example, if they are lost) here are some guidelines for them to follow:

  • If they ever get lost or separated from you, they may have to ask a stranger for help.
  • Safe strangers may be hard to find, but they should look for someone who is wearing a uniform, such as a police officer or someone who works wherever they are.
  • They should also look for a group of adults to ask for help. It’s even better to ask adults who have children with them for help.
  • If someone offers to help them, they can tell them their first name and your name, but they should stay where they are and never leave or go off with anyone, because sometimes, strangers do hurt children.
  • Establish a private family password that only you and your child know so that if someone ever needs to pick them up, you can share the password and your child will know you sent them.

While people often assume abuse happens by strangers, or people unfamiliar to the child, research shows that most sexual abuse and victimization happens by someone a child knows and trusts like a relative, a babysitter, a friend’s older sibling, or even a parent. Therefore, it’s important to ensure your child is safe with all adults, not just unfamiliar ones.

It’s also important to know that children can be abused by other children. In fact, approximately 30% of sexual abuse occurs by an older or more powerful child. So while it’s important to be cautious when leaving your child with an adult, it is also important to be cautious when leaving them with other children that might have unsupervised time with your child.


Additional Resources:

What They're Saying...

I heard about the program through my son. He came home…and showed me the safety rules. I cannot thank the Foundation enough; to have other people who are also concerned about my child’s safety and the safety of other kids is wonderful. I especially like the program’s focus on the prevention side.

The MBF Child Safety Matters program is impressive. This important information is well formulated and well presented, developmentally appropriate, and based on good understanding of literature.

There’s not a child in the world who can’t benefit from this program. There are so many instances where we see children who have been damaged and hurt. Things happened to them and we think, if they’d only had this program, if they’d only had the benefit of this education, that might not have happened to them. If we can prevent that from happening to a single child, then it’s worth all the effort we have put forth.

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