Stranger danger describes the danger to children presented by strangers. The phrase is intended to sum up the danger associated with adults whom children do not know. The phrase has found widespread usage and many children will hear it (or similar advice) during their childhood lives. Many books, films and public service announcements have been devoted to helping children remember this advice. The concept has been criticized for ignoring the fact that most child abductions and harm are not due to strangers, but rather someone the child is familiar with or related to.
Although there are other dangers such as kidnap for ransom, the main threat stranger danger campaigns concern is sexual abuse. In recent years, the emphasis of such campaigns has shifted somewhat, in order to reflect the risk of abuse by persons known to the child.
The process of constantly warning children of possible danger in the form of strangers has also been criticised as exaggerating the potential threat and unnecessarily spreading mistrust, especially when considering that (for example) in the US, about 800,000 children are reported at least temporarily missing every year, yet only 115 "become victims of what is viewed as classic stranger abductions". In situations where the child is in danger for other reasons, avoiding strangers (who might help) could in fact be dangerous itself, such as in the case of an 11-year-old Boy Scout who avoided rescue searchers because he feared they might want to 'steal him'.