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For all the worrying we do about our kids getting kidnapped, it turns out we haven't done a very good job of actually preparing them for a situation in which it could happen. In a hidden camera investigation on British news show Daybreak via The Daily Mail, kids were left to play at a park, where an affable stranger approached them, asking for help finding another child or a lost dog.
Here's the shocker that's going to keep you up tonight: 7 out of 9 kids ages 5 to 11 agreed to leave the park with him, despite no physical contact. And in most cases, he was able to convince them to do so in only about 90 seconds. The results are exactly what happened when Today Show host Natalie Morales did a similar experiment for Dateline.
All the kids had been warned about stranger danger by their parents. "It's not good enough to say strangers aren't people you can trust," said Daisy McAndrew, one of the journalists who was part of the investigation. "They don't necessarily look like spooky cartoon characters."
As a new school year starts, take a deep breath and remember that stranger abductions are extremely rare. But do have a heart-to-heart with your kids tonight using these tips from Daybreak:
1. Teach them that a stranger is anyone they don't know, not just someone who seems scary.
2. Use this easy-to-remember mantra: Don't Go, Say No.
3. Have a stay-safe plan in case you are late picking them up.
4. Practice phrases they can use if someone offers them candy or money, like "No, thank you. Please leave me alone."
5. Talk through many potential scenarios, and keeping having the talk every few months to keep it fresh in your child's mind.
6. Check out these 20 other great tips for talking to your kids about predators and keeping the lines of communication open.
Mom of two Sasha Emmons is a writer and editor. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.