Experts offer strategies to keep kids safe

Parents reminded to stay vigilant

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Cherish Perrywinkle's death has many parents asking how to keep their children safe. Safety experts weighed in on when the best time to talk to kids about the dangers of strangers. 

"I think we can't be too safe, I think it's better to be safe than sorry," said Nadia Jones. 

Jones is a Jacksonville-based, lifestyle and parenting blogger who told Channel 4 that child safety is a hot topic. 

"Although most of kidnappings take place amongst people our children know, the fact of the matter remains that there are predators that will target families and children," said Jones. "I think we can't be too safe, I think it's better to be safe than sorry."

Jones recommended parents come up with and implement a "family password plan." It's a strategy Jones calls both simple, and one that will stick with the proper repetition.

"We talk about the pickup plan, and we also talk about what happens if those plans change, and in that event, we have a family password. For example, if I'm supposed to pick up the kids after school and somebody comes along and says, 'hey, mom says I should pick you up,' my kids know to ask, 'what is the password?' My kids know to ask and it's an easy word that we can all remember," said Jones.

Through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement website, parents can search and get alerts for the sex offenders living in their neighborhood, and it's also a good idea to check out the areas by your child's school or gym. 

You can also get apps on your smart phone which show you where registered sex offenders are living.

In light of the kidnapping and murder of 8-year-old Cherish Perrywinkle, Channel 4 asked Dr. Justin D'Arienzo how young is too young to address "stranger danger" with children.

"Kids as early as four can understand about dangers. Often kids at four will ask questions, will see the media, or hear a story.

If kids are between the ages of six and 10, you can tell them that there are strangers who want to harm them," said Dr. D'Arienzo. "With a child that is between the ages of 10 and 12, you can be a little more specific that they could be harmed by someone."

Dr. D'Arienzo said parents need to differentiate between the types of strangers. They need to be able to know the difference between strangers in uniforms and the people down the street who kids have probably seen but may not know.

Even then, Channel 4's Crime and Safety Expert, Ken Jefferson, said it's important to keep in mind that just because mom and dad interact with a stranger, doesn't make them safe.

"The parents have to teach the child. They need to tell their children 'don't talk to them, don't say anything to them unless I give you permission.'  That sounds cold, it sounds rude, but it's the time in which we live today. We have to teach our children to be vigilant," said Jefferson.   

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