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Stranger Danger


Easy to Use Resources

Parents, guardians, and adults who care for children face constant challenges when trying to help keep children safer in today's fast-paced world. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) offers easy-to-use safety resources to help address these challenges.

Teach Children About Dangerous Situations Not Certain People

For decades, children were taught to stay away from "strangers." But this concept is difficult for children to grasp and often the perpetrator is someone the child knows. It is more beneficial to help build children's confidence and teach them to respond to a potentially dangerous situation, rather than teaching them to look out for a particular type of person.


NCMEC is the nation's resource center for protecting children. The NCMEC’s prevention and safety education programs and materials contain information and tips that will help parents keep children safer. The Just In Case... and Know the Rules publication series are especially important for parents and guardians.

Tips for Parents:

  • Always know where your child is and whom he or she is with.

  • Be alert for changes in your child's behavior that could be a sign of sexual abuse. These include sudden secretiveness, withdrawal from activities, refusal to go to school, unexpected hostility toward a babysitter or relative or increased anxiety and nightmares.

  • Children should not walk next to curbs, where a car could pull up to them quickly.

  • Children should walk and play in groups, never alone. Tell them to avoid strangers at playgrounds, public restrooms, etc.

  • Do not force them to kiss or hug or sit on an adults lap if they don't want to. This gives them control and teaches them they have the right to refuse.

  • Never allow children to let anyone into the home without the parent's permission.

  • Parents should listen carefully to children's fears and feelings about people or places that scare them to make them uneasy.

  • Show your kids safe places to go to in your neighborhood in an emergency, like a trusted neighbor.

  • Teach children to go to a store clerk, security guard or police officer for help if lost in a store or on the street.

  • Teach kids never to take rides or gifts from someone they do not know. They should not approach anyone in a car asking for directions, looking for a "lost puppy", offering candy, etc.

  • Teach them that no one, not even someone they know can touch them in a way that makes them uncomfortable and to say "No".


Amber Alerts

Once law enforcement has been notified about an abducted child, they must first determine if the case meets their AMBER Alert program’s criteria. The U.S. Department of Justice recommends the following criteria for issuing an AMBER Alert. 


Criteria for Issuing AMBER Alerts:

  • The abduction is of a child age 17 years or younger

  • The child's name and other critical data elements, including the Child Abduction flag, have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer

  • The law-enforcement agency believes the child is in imminent danger of serious bodily injury or death

  • There is enough descriptive information about the victim and abduction for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert to assist in the recovery of the child

  • There is reasonable belief by law enforcement an abduction has occurred


If these criteria are met, alert information is assembled for public distribution. This information may include descriptions and pictures of the missing child, the suspected abductor, and a suspected vehicle along with any other information available and valuable to identifying the child and suspect. 

The information is then faxed to radio stations designated as primary stations under the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Emergency Alert System (EAS). The primary stations send the same information to area radio and television stations and cable systems via the EAS, and participating stations immediately broadcast the information to millions of listeners. Radio stations interrupt programming to announce the Alert, and television stations and cable systems run a “crawl” on the screen along with a picture of the child.

Law enforcement also notifies NCMEC when an AMBER Alert is released for a specific geographical area. Once NCMEC validates the AMBER Alert, it is entered into a secure system and transmitted to authorized secondary distributors for dissemination to customers within the geographic areas specified. 

Some states are also incorporating electronic highway billboards in their AMBER Plans. The billboards, typically used to disseminate traffic information to drivers, now alert the public of abducted children by displaying pertinent information about the child, abductor, or suspected vehicle that drivers might look for on highways.

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