My seven-year-old takes karate. Makes him feel invincible.

Him: “Don’t worry. If a bad guy comes, I know karate.”
Me: “I still want you where I can see you.”
Him: “Don’t worry. I know karate.”
Me: “What if three bad guys come?”
Him: “That’s ok. I can do my ‘tornado kick.'”

I think when kids hear about ‘bad guys,’ they assume they would be forcefully attacked or abducted. Thrown into the backseat of a car. Or they’d be able to scream in time for someone to come to their aid.

I do not own the rights to broadcast the following video and I excerpted 0:38 seconds for illustrative purposes only. In Dexter Season 4, John Lithgow plays a serial killer. Look how easy it was to fool the 10-year-old at the arcade.


Untitled from Joe Hage on Vimeo.

[Click here to watch video.]

How do you protect against a well-conceived con? I don’t think deviously enough to plant these possibilities into my kids’ heads. Not to mention the nightmares.

The guy who conned me

I was 14, I think, at the time. And looking back, the con was ridiculous. I should have known better.

But here was an adult telling me about an emergency situation! I wanted to cooperate and be helpful.

Luckily, I was only robbed.

He stopped me on my bike. He told me, “A woman was shot (I think it was) and they described the perpetrator as [my-height, my-clothes, on a brown bike].

He told me to run up to the fifth floor of this building. I said, “Wait. Let me lock up my bike first.”

He said, “No! There’s no time for that.”

There were only four floors to that building, I discovered, as my bike went off into the distance.

Stupid. Stupid!

How can we protect our children from cons?

I don’t think a simple “Never listen to strangers” is enough.

:: Joe Hage is the CEO and Founder of Medical Marcom, a medical marketing consultancy providing effective lead generation strategies for life science companies. ::


  1. Cami B.

    My son is also 7 and thinks he can be the protector. It is a scary thing when children do not fully have the know-how to decipher when someone is trying to trick them. These days you do not know what a “bad person” looks like. There is no way to sugar-coat these bad situations to inform our children of dangers. We have to be as real as possible without scaring them to being withdrawn from the world around them.

  2. Thank you, Cami. So what do YOU do to educate your son? I’m looking for ideas …

  3. Jiffy

    Scary indeed. Especially for a kid like mine who loves to talk and will talk to anyone. I often think, just a little lego or some candy and a plausible story and someone could easily get my child to go somewhere he shouldn’t. We continue to instill in him that everyone is a stranger and unless mom and dad are around, don’t talk to someone, even if it’s someone you’ve seen before. We also remind him to trust his instincts and that if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Still, I am always concerned.

    Would love to hear other’s ideas, and experiences.

  4. Julie

    My daughter is now 12, but since she was four, I’ve given her advice on what to do in many situations. My favorite is to ask her what she would do if someone approached her with a kitten or puppy and ask her if she lost it, which is a common way abductors lure children quietly. She would always swear she would run away. One day, I was driving past her school, and sure enough she was petting a stranger’s puppy, and I got out and made a scene. After that, the teachers had a, ‘don’t talk to strangers’ talk with the kids.

    It’s best to teach them if they are lost, have no phone and can’t find a policeman to find someone who looks like a mother or grandmother. I’ve also told her about the Hillside Strangler cousins, who told one girl they were policemen and to get in the car.

    One day recently, I realized I reached her. She and her friends were leaving Owl’s Head, and some man kept following them, crossing the street, then crossing back. Finally, as a group, they faced him, got a good look, then yelled, “Pedophile!” at the top of their lungs. They ran half a block, but he turned and left quietly. I told her next time to get out her cell phone and take pictures of him.

  5. I was thinking of showing the kids this video. Beth thinks it might be too scary.

    What do you think?

  6. Jiffy

    Joe, I would not show it to them. I think there are other stranger safety videos on youtube that might be more age appropriate.

  7. I did end up showing Invincible Lucas the video. No, he assured me, he would NEVER fall for that. He also learned about liquid chloroform and believes he could hold his breath long enough not to worry about that either.

    He is impossible.

    But I did teach the children a secret word that any stranger: Police officer, teacher, priest, librarian, anyone would have to know in order to go with them. That was a great suggestion from Chris Burgess.

  8. It’s the next morning.

    And I am the one who had a nightmare! Really.

    In the dream, I couldn’t find my car and the kids were waiting for a long time.

  9. Excellent question Joe. We also use a “safety word” with our daughters. It was my wife’s idea (I married well). Our daughter is 8 and I struggle between preparing her for a harsh and dangerous world and scaring her unnecessarily. She’s starting to get more active online and I know what’s out there waiting for her. Between sheltering from scary stuff, and scaring them to protect them, I pick scaring them.

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