“If you should see a dog biting a man, don’t write it up. But if you should see a man biting a dog, spare not money, men nor telegraph tolls to get the details to the [newspaper] office.”
-Charles A. Dana
There is a rule in journalism which states that “Dog Bites Man” is not newsworthy, while “Man Bites Dog” is newsworthy. The reason is quite simple, an occurrence as often as a dog biting a man isn’t something that interests people. However, if something as odd as a man biting a dog were to happen, that’s newsworthy.
People want oddities.
People want sensationalism.
People want extreme.
These type of stories are newsworthy whilst common happenings aren’t.
This is something to remember when watching or listening to the news. We need to remember that the editors decided which stories to report and which were not deemed newsworthy.
Just because something is seen more often in the news, doesn’t mean that it happens more often in life. Actually, the inverse is usually correct.
Parents need to recognize that the media might be corrupting their views on child safety.
“Stranger Danger” is real.
It is frightening.
It is a parent’s worst nightmare.
The stories of Adam Walsh, Hailey Owens, Eitan Patz, Michaela Garecht, Amber Hagerman and Leiby Kletzky (among many others) give parents good reason to educate about “Stranger Danger”, but those cases are statistical anomalies.
It is much more likely that someone known to the child victimize the child than a stranger. About 8 or 9 times more likely, depending on the study.
Therefore it is much more important to emphasize other child safety topics. (e.g. my body is mine, not keeping secrets, boundaries). Too much emphasis on “Stranger Danger” could potentially leave a child more vulnerable for grooming.
1. Teach “Stranger Danger”.
2. Explain what it means (if you ask a class of 3rd graders what “Stranger Danger” means, they will not all give the same response).
3. Give the child tips for what type of stranger they should look for if they need help (e.g. If the child gets lost, who should they seek for help? Perhaps a mother with children? Police officer?)
4. Don’t spend too much time on this topic, there are more important topics. Too much emphasis on “Stranger Danger” can end up being detrimental to the child, as they will believe that all “non-strangers” are ok.
Yisroel Picker is a Social Worker who lives in Jerusalem. He has a private practice which specializes in working with people of all ages helping them understand their own thought processes, enabling them to improve their level of functioning, awareness, social skills and more. He also lectures on the topics of communication and child safety.
You can email Yisroel at firstname.lastname@example.org
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