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"Stranger Danger" only Scratches the Surface

The tragic abduction and killing of Hailey Owens is sparking conversation between parents and their children about the danger of adult predators.
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There is no way to guarantee your child won't be confronted by a predator but you can teach your children to be aware of the reality. Micki Lane from the Child Advocacy Center says that having open conversations with your children is the best way to keep them safe.

"Stranger abductions do happen and children can be harmed, but we need to be keeping our eyes open and go with our feelings," said Lane.

Police have said there is no known connectionbetween Owens and the suspect, Craig Wood. But in the case of sexual abuse, according to the Child Advocacy Center, a child is said to know the predator in many as 90 percent of such incidents.

"We served 1,554 children here at the advocacy center and less than 1% perpetrators, or alleged perpetrators, were deemed to be strangers," Lane said.

That's why they say teaching your children the idea of "stranger danger" is not as effective.

"It's more important to reinforce and teach them that they want to get out of any potentially dangerous situation, regardless of how they known that person, if possible," said Lane.

She said to make sure your child knows safety is always more important than being polite. Other tips she gave include teaching children to always walk in a group, to always inform their caregiver of their whereabouts, and the appropriate steps to take if someone unknown does approach them.

"Adults should be asking for directions from other adults, not from children. I think that's always a good conversation to have with children,” Lane said.  

As grim as this week's events have been, the Child Advocacy Center says that this gives parents a chance not only to teach their children but also reeducate themselves.

More information on safety tips can be found at childadvocacycenter.org.

For KSMU News, I'm Shannon Bowers.