With the increasing number of child abduction reports publicized recently via the media, safety of children is a growing concern for families. The Federal Bureau of Investigation actually shows that the number of stranger abductions has declined over the past two years. However, most abductors are relatives of the person abducted (AP, July 2002).
Supervision is the best first-line defense for our children; but we can't always be with them especially as they get older. Education about safety and awareness should be an ongoing process.
- Teach your kids not to talk to strangers. Teach your child to be suspicious if someone stops in their car to ask directions or ask for help locating a missing pet or child; adults looking for such information generally look for another adult. Teach your children not to go near someone and to get an adult, or to call 911 if they are concerned about someone.
- Teach your child to trust his or her instincts - if a situation does not seem right, she or he should immediately seek the help of a trusted adult.
- Teach your child to only travel well-lit and well-traveled routes, and to travel with a buddy. Teach them how to get other peoples' attention if they are approached by someone.
- Teach your children skills on how to get away from someone who stops them. Try to enroll your children in self defense workshops geared for their age. See information below about one such approach, the RADKids program.
- Teach your child never to release his or her information on the Internet. The Internet can make someone appear to be anyone they want to be. Children are particularly vulnerable to adults lurking in sites and chat rooms geared toward children and teens, and may make your child believe they are a similar person; they can be quite convincing. Teach your child never to give her/his address, phone number or real name, or information about his/her school, neighborhood or family. If the person invites them to meet them, they should notify you immediately so you can alert authorities.
Tips for Parents
- Have your children fingerprinted and photographed in a child safety program. If your child is ever abducted, which hopefully will never happen, a photograph will be available as an aide to finding your child, and prints can help investigators in the case.
- Talk to your kids - use age-appropriate messages and teach your child to think smartly. Review situations with him or her and how s/he might react. Include scenarios about becoming lost in a store or mall, having a stranger approach him/her looking for help or directions, what to do if they are alone with someone they know and they begin to feel unsafe.
- Pay attention to your child's activities and know where they are at all times.
- Remind your children daily how much you love them and let them know they can talk to you about anything. Encourage open communication in general and they will be more likely to share information with you about a situation that may feel unsafe.
- Make sure your child knows where they can go and who they can be with.
- Make sure your child knows his/her full name, address and phone number, and make sure s/he has another trusted adult s/he can contact if you can not be reached if s/he is nervous about a situation or has an emergency.
- If you are not home when your child(ren) get home from school, enroll them in group activities such as sports, school-based programs, etc., or utilize an age-appropriate trusted caregiver to spend that time with them. Be sure to check out the activity first - be sure all employees or volunteers working with your child(ren) are screened for prior criminal involvement. Camps are required to run criminal background checks.
RADKids Program: this version of the Rape Aggression Defense system so popular in helping women protect themselves is designed for the youth audience.
- National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has many resources on how to protect your children including a guide for parents on personal safety for children.
- The federal government's Project Safe Neighborhoods has information about protecting your children from many crimes including abduction, bullying, etc.
- The National Crime Prevention Council's famous McGruff character provides information geared toward children on personal safety.
- Childrens' Safety Information from Klaas Kids Foundation (an organization founded after the kidnapping and death of Polly Hannah Klaas and dedicated to helping prevent the crimes against children.
- Child Safety Information from MollyBish.org, another foundation formed after a teenager was abducted from her summer job as a lifeguard at a Massachusetts pond only minutes after her mother dropped her off. Her body was found two years later, in the summer of 2003.
- AMBER Alert: this system, adopted in several states, utilizes local media and highway electronic signs to alert community members of the disappearance of a child. It was recently credited for finding two teenage girls a week after its inception in California.
- San Jose State University Police Department Children's Safety site: has activities and safety instruction for children.
- Los Angeles Police have a great list of resources for helping children be safe. Check out their listing on their crime prevention page.
- Ready Kids: A website for children to be prepared for every situation.