Instead of telling children not to talk to strangers, "Teach kids to make judgment calls not based on what a person looks like but, rather, their behavior and what they want you to do,'' said Fitzgerald.
"Most offenders -- kidnappers, sex offenders -- do not look like what a child perceives what a stranger looks like. They don't look like the boogie man. They're friendly,'' said Fitzgerald. "They trick or lure children, saying they need help or assistance."
Children should be taught that if they are lost, they should find a store and ask a clerk behind the cash register or someone in charge for help, or ask a mother with children.
Some safety experts point out that children should be taught that a person in a uniform is not necessarily a safe person and certainly not the only person they can reach out to for help. Police officers may not be around when a child is lost or needs help.
What Your Child Should Do When Approached by a Possible Predator
Children need to learn that, "Safe grownups don't ask kids for help when they're by themselves or just with another kid,'' said Fitzgerald. "A safe grownup shouldn't be asking a child for assistance and it's OK to say no to an adult who is asking for help, and to immediately walk in the opposite direction.
Politeness has its place, but when a child is in fear or danger, she should know that she is free to walk -- or run -- away.
"If they feel scared, if they feel threatened, or if they are grabbed, make a loud commotion, even if the perp says, 'Don't yell,'" said Fitzgerald. "Make a commotion."
Use the Buddy System
Predators are less likely to target a child in a group.
"I don't like kids alone," said Fitzgerald. "That old adage, 'There's safety in numbers,' has merit."
Create a Family Plan of Action
For a time, parents were told to establish a code word with their child to employ in the event that an unexpected person needed to pick the child up. However, many experts now feel that code words are ineffective because predators can ingratiate themselves with the child and learn the code word.
Instead, experts now say to create a family plan of action and to talk through the scenarios with the child regularly. Discuss the possibilities: What do you do if you get lost? What do you do if you need help at the mall? What if there was an emergency in our family, who would come to get you?
Guard Your Child's Privacy
Do not put your child's name on clothing or backpacks. Predators can use the knowledge to catch the child off guard.
Use Technology to Your Advantage
If you think your child is old enough to handle the responsibility, cell phones are a great tool for children to reach out for help and to give parents some piece of mind. But experts warn that batteries run out, children use phones inappropriately and predators would likely know that a phone could lead authorities to them.
For more information and to test your safety knowledge, check out The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's website.