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When a creep approaches your teen

I watched this TikTok video of a young girl being approached by a man while she was doing a live with some friends on her computer. As I watched the video, I noticed how awkward the whole interaction was for her. It made me think of my own 14-year-old daughter.

I think that we can learn a few things from her experience. I also think she is very brave for putting it out there because most of us do not put our weak moments on display. But don’t assume your daughter will know what to do like this young woman did.

Remember that Oprah segment?

Oprah Winfrey aired a classic segment in 1993. Her producers and child safety advocate Ken Wooden conducted an experiment (with the parents’ permission) where they were able to successfully lure away every single child participating in the test out of the playground in an average of 35 seconds.

Now every one of these parents had insisted that their child would never talk to a stranger or leave the park with someone they didn’t know. They were wrong.

Preparing kids and teens for creeps

So, here are a few tips that I think may be helpful in making our kids aware and instilling some basic advice on safety:

1. If an adult that your child does not know comes to them and asks for “their help with something” – do not engage. Adults do not need your child’s help. Even if it was well meaning, it is better to be safe when you do not know the person.

2. “Stay away from strangers” or “stranger danger” is obsolete. If we are going to use this mantra, then we must define ‘stranger’. We often paint a picture of a scary or mean person, the “bad man”, when they really appear as an angel of light. A predator can easily lead with “I’m a friend of your mom” and then they are no longer a stranger. Remind your child that it doesn’t matter whether a person is nice or not, if you don’t recognize them you don’t have to talk to them. You won’t be in trouble.

3. It is okay to yell or say ‘NO’ loudly if you’re scared.

4. Teach your children about appropriate boundaries – and model this. No one should ever get too close to you without your permission and definitely not without your parent or caregiver present.

5. Impart confidence and strength in your child by having a conversation about what to do in certain scenarios. Don’t instill fear. Here are some examples:

a. What would you do if we got separated from each other in an amusement park or the mall? (answer: look for a woman with a baby or young child and ask for help)

b. How would you handle it if someone we know said you need to come with them, that I sent them to pick you up because there is an emergency? (answer: only designated adults previously named by you (the parent) will be coming to get you – no one else)

This video was anxiety provoking for many moms and dads who watched it. It’s not easy to see your child (or a child who reminds you of yours) in such an awkward situation. But hopefully, these tips will help you have conversations with your kids and who knows, you may learn something from them too.

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