When a child disappears, parents and family are devastated. An entire community can also be affected. According to FBI statistics, there were 29,758 active missing person records involving children under the age of 18 at the end of last year. This is a frightening figure, but many parents may not be fully aware of how to prevent child kidnapping. The fact is that parents can teach their children a few things that can help keep them safe.
1. Teach Cyber Safety
Teaching kids about cyber safety, including smartphone safety, may play a bigger role in preventing abductions than the traditional approach of warning them about stranger danger. You were taught to stay away from strangers when you were growing up, but this is a new world of ever-present electronic devices.
Kids are now sharing their lives and thoughts online, and the dangerous stranger may not approach them on the street or at the local mall. The threat could instead enter your kid’s life while he or she is visiting a website or through social media. You should definitely instill in your kids the idea of stranger danger, but don’t neglect to impress upon them that this includes those who may be lurking on the internet. Teach them basic social media safety and that oversharing is not in their best interest.
The majority of kids today who go missing aren’t whisked off the streets or out of public places; they’re effectively lured by online predators and then voluntarily go to them through email or social media enticements. Make sure your child learns to not trust anyone or anything that they come across online. There’s also no reason why you shouldn’t check your kid’s mobile device or desktop to see for yourself what might be going on.
2. Teach Your Kids the Check-First Rule
The check-first rule should always be part of a kid’s safety bubble. Regardless of whether they know the person, kids should always back off from any invitation or enticement and check first with a parent or guardian. It doesn’t matter whether the invitation comes from a known individual or a stranger; the number one rule should be to check first. That means always talking to a parent before responding, regardless of how and where the invitation was made.
3. Keep Your Eyes and Ears Open
Don’t allow yourself to become distracted when you’re out shopping with your children. Little kids can easily run off and disappear behind clothes racks and store-aisle displays. You should also strive to remain aware of anyone who might appear to be taking a special interest in your children. Kids should be taught from an early age to remember their vital information in case they get lost or separated from their parents. They should be able to recite their full name, address, and parents’ phone numbers.
4. Teach Your Kids How To Respond When an Abduction is Attempted
When it looks like someone is attempting to forcibly take them somewhere, children need to know how to respond. Teach your kids that screaming is better than yelling, especially if what they’re screaming is “Call 9-1-1!” or “Call a cop!” They should also drop anything they may be carrying and start spinning their arms around like a windmill; that makes it hard to grab them. Giving your child a whistle to blow or a noise-producing device can help scare off anyone who may attempt to abduct them.
5. The Keep-A-Secret Red Flag
Children should be taught how to spot trouble. One thing they should know is that when anyone asks them if they can “keep a secret,” it should be seen as a red flag. When someone tries to get your child to keep quiet about something, he or she should see that as a clear sign to tell you about it. Make an effort to assure your kids that there’s never a good reason to not share something with you.
6. Teach Kids To Spot the Trusted Adults
If anything should happen to your child, such as getting lost or someone attempting to lure them off, they should know how to spot trusted adults if you’re not within reach. In a store, they should seek out an employee with a name tag or a security guard. Outside, they can look for a police officer or a mother with children.
7. Keep the Channels of Communication Open
Let your kids know that you won’t get angry with them if they tell you about something they may have done wrong. Don’t shame them if they slip-up and admit that they’ve talked to someone in person or online that they should have avoided. Kids who are emotionally needy may be at the greatest risk for a predator. You can help prevent an outsider from playing on your kids’ needs by letting them know that you’re there for them and you’re always ready to listen.