It seems like every day we hear of another child gone missing and although the greatest perpetrators statistically are family members, you can never discount strangers who are more apt to do harm to your children once abducted. According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, there are a number of measures you can take to safeguard your children against being abducted. The following child abduction prevention tips are among the most useful resources for both parents and children alike. It is never too early to begin teaching your children about the dangers of being abducted, but it is up to you as parents to maximize efforts on their behalf.
1. Never Talk to Strangers
As parents we teach our children well. Over and over again like some ritualistic litany we say “Never talk to strangers. Don’t talk to strangers,” sometimes until we are blue in the face. Unfortunately, many of us don’t go on to define exactly what a stranger is! Here is where experts say the problem lies. Children don’t understand that just because an adult knows their name doesn’t mean that the adult is a friend!
Many parents think it’s cute to have children’s shirts embroidered with the child’s name on it, necklaces with the child’s name and even schools pin name tags at bus time on young children. A stranger walking up to your child could then call him or her by name and the child would often willingly talk to that person. After all, they know my name! Make sure you also teach your child exactly who they can talk to by naming names. If the adult (or older child!) isn’t on that list they are to turn and run/walk away NOW.
2. The Buddy System
Children should really never be out alone anyway. The smaller they are the more important this rule is. Even playing in one’s own yard can pose a very real threat and it is incumbent upon the parents, babysitter or older sibling to make absolutely certain that a small child is NEVER left unattended. As the child grows older, many parents want to instill a sense of responsibility and independence in their child so they encourage them walking to school, riding their bikes or even going over to visit a friend in the neighborhood.
Unless your child is with a buddy, he or she should not be on the streets alone. It only takes a moment for an adult to snatch up your child and drive away unseen. You have heard the old cliché that there is safety in numbers. This was never truer than when children are out playing in the neighborhood. Teach them the buddy system and the first time you catch them disobeying the rule it is important to take their ‘outside time’ privileges away from them until they can respect the rule. It is better to be the bad guy now than the sad guy later.
3. Keep the Lines of Communication Open
Of course it is difficult to carry on lengthy conversations with little ones, but as soon as your children are old enough to comprehend what you are saying talk to them about the dangers of being abducted. Tell them that you need to know who their friends are and where they are at all times. Explain to them that you are looking out for their safety and that if you are not available then they should contact a specified person or persons if they are not going to be where they are supposed to be. It is never too early to drive this lesson home as even little children left in the care of others can end up somewhere totally unexpected.
If they are at a friend’s home visiting and the mom wants to take them to McDonald’s or to the park, teach your child to call home for permission first. Keep the lines of communication open so that you know where your child is every moment of the day and make them a part of your preventative measures. If they feel like their input is important they are more likely to become involved and to obey the rules.
4. Know Your Surroundings and the People Within Them
Before inviting anyone whatsoever to your home, get to know them. While this is always important, it is even more so when you have children in the family. Although it might sound a bit paranoid, take the time to do a little digging before opening your doors to anyone. Most states have online offender websites that will clearly tell you if there are any convicted felons (child molestation or endangerment) in your neighborhood as well and many of those sites also post photographs of them as well.
While out and about, be cognizant of your surroundings. Teach your children to also be aware of where they are and what is going on around them. There are times when seemingly innocuous things can come back to haunt you if you aren’t vigilant. If a child should somehow get separated from a group, make sure he or she knows who to contact and how to contact them. And for goodness sake, teach them not to run up to a stranger asking for help, unless of course that stranger is a police officer. Help them understand that the best course of action is to stay put until the supervising adult gets to them. By running off looking for the group chances are you will keep missing each other.
5. Tips for Safeguarding Your Home
It is true that alarm systems can be quite costly, and apartment dwellers might not be able to justify the cost. However, there are other safety measures which can be put into place which are much more reasonably priced. Double key deadbolts are perfect for securing doors and it is important to make sure every window in your home or apartment can be fastened securely. In fact, get your children involved with safety measures as well. Make them a part of the process so that they will know how to help protect themselves as well. This is especially important for older children who may spend time at home alone.
When safeguarding your home, also consider ways to keep your personal information protected as well. Many home invasions that occur while no one is at home result in the intruder gaining access to personal information about family members. This is one of the ways in which a stranger could learn useful information in order to abduct your children. The more well-rounded your approach to abduction prevention is, the more you will be able to safeguard your children. Whether at home or away, utilize as many child abduction prevention tips as possible to protect your children from being snatched up unawares.