Strangers allowed into our homes

Published 11:28 am Monday, May 5, 2014

We’ve always taught our children to never talk to strangers. We talk of “stranger danger” to make sure our children were safe at the mall, the park or any other public place.

In 1972, the National Sheriffs’ Association began to revitalize the neighborhood watch program that started in the late 1960s. This program originated in response to the rape and murder of 28-year-old Kitty Genovese in Queens, New York, where 38 witnesses did nothing to assist the victim or apprehend the attacker.

If you drive down many streets today in Vicksburg, you will see the neighborhood watch sign posted somewhere along the street that reads, “Warning, Neighborhood Watch. Our neighbors are watching over one another’s family members and property and they have been trained to report suspicious activity or persons in the neighborhood to our law enforcement agency.” We’ve gone to great lengths over the years to make sure our streets were safe for our children to play, knowing that there were eyes everywhere keeping watch and helping to protect every child living in the neighborhood.

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Now in the age of smartphones and social media, stranger danger can no longer be monitored by the grandmother peeking out of her kitchen window or the retired policeman scanning the street for suspicious characters as he mows his front lawn. The most dangerous stranger is no longer lurking behind a tree or trying to get kids to find a lost puppy. The danger has now entered into our homes, via online access. Children and teenagers alike are interacting with people they do not know on a daily basis, whether it is through social media, chat rooms or even game apps and video consoles.

The question is, are parents still teaching their children about stranger danger? Are they monitoring who has access to communicate with their child? It isn’t likely that you would take your child to the store and leave them to talk to a complete stranger while you go about with your shopping, so why would you leave your child to a world wide web of strangers who are faceless and without any proof of their identity?

Parents, it’s time to recognize that the potential for tragedy is rising at an exponential rate if we do not take this danger seriously. Our children may grumble and complain about loss of privacy or not having “cool” parents, but isn’t it our responsibility to protect and provide a safe haven for our children? Now is the time to invest an interest into their lives, search out every avenue of danger and eliminate that danger as soon as possible. We would certainly do everything in our power to save our children from being lured away in public, why should cyberspace be any different?