"Stranger danger" is no longer drilled into children as most offending is done by those the children know, police say.
The comments follow a spate of alleged child abductions attempts in recent weeks that have put schools and parents on high alert nationwide.
Kaharoa School principal Warwick Moyle said every second year the school ran a "Keeping Ourselves Safe" programme.
"That's quite a comprehensive unit that's put together by the police in conjunction with the Ministry of Education.
"They are taught how to keep themselves safe, what to do in various situations, what is and isn't appropriate and who to tell."
The programme catered to the whole school with different levels relevant to different age-groups.
All of his students were discouraged from walking to or from school because of the danger of walking along the narrow country roads in the area, he said. "The majority of our pupils come by bus, or their parents bring them."
A 26-year-old man was remanded in custody yesterday charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm after the suspected abduction and assault of a 9-year-old Timaru boy.
The boy was found bloodied and distressed near a river 15km from Oceanview Heights School last Thursday.
South Canterbury area commander Inspector Dave Gaskin said the man was known to the child but they were not related.
A police spokeswoman stressed it was not a case of "stranger danger", which she described as "an outdated, discredited and potentially dangerous concept".
"Stranger danger makes it easier for abusers known to the child - the most common source by far of abuse in New Zealand - because children think they can't possibly be strangers and therefore won't harm them.
"Furthermore, it lulls parents and caregivers into a false sense of security. They think that if they have told children to avoid strangers they will be keeping their children safe from abuse."
Keeping Ourselves Safe taught about the behaviours to avoid and report, from people known and unknown to the child, she said.
On November 6, an 8-year-old girl was targeted in an abduction attempt in Papamoa. A stranger tried to entice her into his car as she rode her scooter the 500m from her school to her father's work.
The girl's father later wrote an open letter to the "mongrel" who tried to snatch his daughter.
"This was a blatant attempt to take my child in broad daylight with no hesitation and if he felt brave enough to try once, he will most certainly try again and again until he is either caught or, God forbid, he actually succeeds."
On November 7, a Christchurch primary school boy told police he armed himself with a stick and fought off a would-be abductor who tried to drag him down the street towards a waiting vehicle.
On the same day, a man tried to abduct a young Lower Hutt woman by forcing her into his car.
Meanwhile, Auckland's North Shore was the scene of several abduction attempts last month, the worst involving a 5-year-old boy who was snatched as he walked 50m in front of his mother. Police said he managed to wriggle away.
On October 17, a 9-year-old North Shore girl was approached by a strange man outside her school who offered her a ride home.