Henry Winkler has three words for children everywhere: No. Go. Tell. Say "no" to strangers who offer candy, toys and money, or to anyone who touches you improperly. Go away as fast as you can. And tell someone you trust immediately.
As host of a new 42-minute home video cassette, "Strong Kids, Safe Kids: A Family Guide," Winkler -- who says he would have become a child psychologist if he hadn't become an actor -- is waging war against child abuse and sexual molestation.
"I'm a dad," says the 39-year-old father of Jed, 14, Zoe Emily, 4, and Max, 1. "When you have your own child, that child is a genius. The baby walks, the baby talks, you tell these stories, you laugh, you show your pictures . . . You literally could eat a building brick by brick if something tries to come between you and your child.
He says that child abuse, "next to nuclear holocaust, is the most anger-making subject I know."
About 1 million children a year are abducted or abused, says Winkler, who urges parents and children to listen to one another, recognize the extent of the problem and realize that it happens in the best of families under the best of circumstances.
The videocassette features Winkler as himself and as "Fonzie," the character he portrayed on television's "Happy Days"; Dr. Sol Gordon of the Institute for Family Research and Education in Syracuse, N.Y.; Kee McFarlane of Children's Institute International in Los Angeles; the Flintstones and other animated characters from Hanna-Barbera Productions; and TV stars Mariette Hartley and John Ritter.
Catchy, soothing songs describe different kinds of "touches," urge children not to blame themselves for sexual advances made by someone older and give the correct names for body parts.
"The children learn the song while the parents sweat," Winkler says with a laugh. "It's very difficult not to be embarrassed, but we're all embarrassed."
The tape shows respect for both parent and child, he says. Parents are encouraged to discuss sex openly and honestly with their children, and children are encouraged to trust their instincts and keep moving when approached by strangers.
"This tape is for the home," Winkler says. "We made it so that the child and the parent watch it together. There is also a brochure that comes with the tape which is stuff we thought was too heavy, that the parents should share with the children when they think it's time."
Aware that not every home is equipped with a video recorder -- and that sometimes parents themselves are the abusers -- Winkler says he hopes the tape will be used by schools, churches, synagogues and libraries to bring the material to the attention of children who couldn't see it otherwise.
"If children -- who are clean slates -- hear from us what some of the agendas are of some adults, maybe something from the tape will click in their heads. They'll think, 'Wait. I've heard that before and I don't buy it. I'm outta here.' "
Among Winkler's suggestions for parents:
* Safety supersedes politeness. "Teach your child that there is no reason to be rude, but he doesn't have to answer every question that comes down the pike."
* Call body parts by their proper names. "So that, God forbid anything happens, the child will know what the real names are."
* Learn how to listen and underreact. "Children at a young age do not make this stuff up. If you are calm and if you listen, the child will try out the information on you in little bits. When he sees that you are not going to jump down his throat, he will slowly but surely give you the rest of it."
"Strong Kids, Safe Kids" retails for $29.95, although some stores are selling or renting it at a discount. (Erol's Video stores, Video Village, Video Supermarket and Video Connection are among the outlets renting the tape at discount prices to members. Video Village offers it free for three days, Erol's for one.) For those who buy the tape, there are 15 blank minutes at the end of the cassette for parents to make a video reproduction of their children in case of abduction.