Schools and parents should avoid using the term ‘‘stranger danger’’ to children, because most child abuse is committed by people known to their victims, police say.
Wellington schools warned parents and caregivers this week to ensure children walked in groups after reports of suspicious activity in the northern suburbs.
However, Roland Hermans, police adviser to schools, said the ‘‘stranger danger’’ concept was outdated, discredited and potentially dangerous.
The ‘‘cliched’’ term made it ‘‘easier for abusers known to the child’’, because children might think people known to them would not harm them.
But people known to their victims were ’’the most common source by far of abuse in New Zealand’’, he said.
‘‘Children need to know how to identify and tell a trusted person if anyone is behaving towards them in a way that makes them feel unsafe.
‘‘Normalising the term ‘stranger danger’ goes against this.’’
‘‘They think that, if they have told children to avoid strangers, they will be keeping their children safe from abuse.
‘‘Rather than concentrating on stereotypical strangers, it is important children know about the behaviours to avoid and report, no matter whether they come from a person unknown or familiar to the child.’’