Some experts are urging parents to abandon the time-honored warning of “Don’t talk to strangers” and instead work with their children on a variety of skills for being safe but not scared, the Associated Press reports. “Our message is that children should recognize and avoid certain situations, rather than certain people,” said Nancy McBride of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Federal statistics show there is no upsurge in child abductions and disappearances, though such cases often gain widespread attention, fueling anxiety. Florida lawmakers toughened child-sex laws after the separate abductions and slayings of two girls. At the Jacob Wetterling Foundation, founded by Minnesota couple whose 11-year-son was abducted in 1989 and has not been seen since, director Nancy Sabin said the Stranger/Danger mantra “is far overrated” because most abductors and abusers are known to the parent or child. “More than 80 percent of the time, the abductor is someone in the neighborhood,” she said. “The myth is that it’s a guy in a trench coat unknown to the child, but in fact it’s rarely a total stranger.”