Do you know how to train your child to recognize the “I need directions” lure from pedophiles?

It’s not so odd when an adult in a car asks a teenager for directions if nobody else is around, but you should be extremely suspicious when someone asks a younger child for directions.

Sex offenders and pedophiles have been known to use the ruse of asking children for directions.

In fact, many child safety advocacy organizations point out that the “assistance lure” or that of asking directions is a common ploy used by sex offenders. Don’t brush this off. It happens.

The Fighting Back Institute and Parents for Megan’s Law are two such entities that point this out.

“Caregivers should warn children to avoid anyone asking for directions, male or female,” begins Dr. Stacy Haynes, LPC, a child therapist and clinical director/owner of Little Hands Family Services, which specializes in providing mental health services to families.

“We are seeing more reports of women who are trapped in trafficking helping lure children in order to gain their freedom. 

“No adult should be asking a child for directions. Even teenagers are being used to lure other teenagers into captivity.”  

Teaching Your Child to Spot a Suspicious Situation

#1. Realize that telling your child, “Adults never ask children for directions,” is not enough, since the innate naïve and helpful nature of young kids can override this admonition, especially when the sex offender is handsome and putting on a good act.

#2. Ask your child whom he would seek help for directions if he were lost: an adult or another child his age? He will predictably tell you an adult.

Then ask, “Why would you ask an adult for directions instead of a friend your age?” This will force the child to think. This thinking process will improve his insight.

#3. If she gives a short, vague response like, “Because adults know more,” ask her to write down three reasons.

Be patient. This further-thinking and writing process will reinforce insight about stranger safety.

#4. Ask your child if she could think of any reasons why a harmless, innocent adult would ever ask her or any child for directions, when there are adults whom the stranger could ask. This thinking process will promote more insight.

#5. Have your child imagine that he and you are lost in an unfamiliar town with all sorts of confusing roads.

Both of you are hungry and have to use a restroom. Talk about this scenario for several minutes to build up its dynamics.

Then ask, “When it’s time for me to ask someone for directions, who would be better at helping me out? An adult? Or a child your age?” Let your child think and respond.

#6. Ask her what she would do if the stranger, asking for directions, seems truly lost and confused, looks nice and is well-dressed, and there are no adults around.

Your response to her answer will depend on her answer. But get this question on the table.

Kids who are very helpful by nature may find it hard to resist “helping” such a stranger, and your child may even tell you, “But what if he’s really lost, and what if I know the directions he asks me for?”

Explain this: “Chances are more likely than not, that this stranger is a predator who’s just trying to lure you.”

(Adjust the wording for very young children, but realize that in this day and age, many young children are already familiar with what “predator” means when referring to a person.)

Then say: “Simply sprint away from that person towards where you think the nearest adults are, ideally inside the nearest building. You do not have to speak to this stranger.

“Just run. You will not get in trouble for running away from a stranger who asks you for directions. Never.”

Also explain: “But to answer your question about what if the stranger means no harm and is truly lost.

“Tell them that you will get an adult to help out, then RUN to the nearest adult and report the situation.

“If the stranger is harmless, he will patiently wait for the adult you send for him and will be grateful. If he’s a pedophile, he won’t stick around.”

Carry out this training session during a time when you know you won’t be distracted or interrupted with phone calls and other tasks.

In addition, Dr. Haynes points out, “Caregivers can help their children by teaching them to recognize that everyone has cell phones or ways to find their way.

“We have to help our children to be mindful of their neighborhoods, normal ‘adults’ in the neighborhood, and being mindful of their surroundings when in a new neighborhood.   

“Teach your child to say I will call an adult who can help you and immediately start to walk away if confronted by a stranger.”

Dr. Stacy Haynes, LPC, is a the clinical director/owner of Little Hands Family Services, a mental health outpatient practice specializing in the needs of neurodivergent youth. She has authored several books, courses and workshops to help parents while raising their unique children. She is a proud mother of an Eagle Scout and a Mensan.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  
Top image: Shutterstock/Jaroslav Monchak