The world is a curious place. While it’s full of wonder, especially in the eyes of a child, it’s also important to not turn a blind eye to its possible dangers. Hence, it’s important to learn about stranger abductions and to teach your child how to help prevent them and stay safe.
The Reality of Stranger Abductions
In the United States, about 2,100 missing children reports are filed daily.2 Most children reported missing have either run away or had a misunderstanding with their parents or guardian regarding their whereabouts.2
Additionally, many children and teens who have actually been abducted have usually been taken by a family member.2 Still, 25 percent have been taken by strangers.2 Almost all children who have been abducted by strangers have been taken by males and about two-thirds of the children taken involve female children.2 Yet, most abducted kids are in their teens.2
Ways to Help Prevent Abductions
To help prevent abductions, consider setting boundaries on places your children go and make sure to supervise them. Never leave them alone in a car, stroller, or anywhere else, even for a minute. Monitor their online presence, including sites they visit and apps they use, and keep tabs on their interactions. In this day and age, anyone can mask their identity, so it’s important to be mindful of whom your children are talking to.
Additionally, carefully screen babysitters, caregivers, and daycare providers. Thoroughly check their references. Once you’ve chosen one to work with, make sure they are provided with and remain up to date with emergency contact numbers and that any arrangements are made ahead of time. Furthermore, avoid putting your child’s name or personal information on anything. They’re more likely to listen to an adult who knows their name, even if it’s a complete stranger.
Talking to Your Child about Stranger Danger
In addition to educating yourself on how to help prevent abductions, you should also educate your children on the topic.
By the time a child reaches the age of three, they can start to grasp some concepts on how to try to avoid stranger abductions.1 This is when you should start to teach them about stranger danger.
First and foremost, make sure your child knows how to contact you or the police in case of emergency. If possible, especially for teens, make sure they have a quick method of contacting you – such as by keeping a cell phone with them. If they make plans to go out, know where they plan on going and who they’ll be with.
Another important tip to teach them is not to talk to strangers. Make sure they don’t give out personal information and that they know even a familiar face can be a stranger.
Also, teach your child that adults should never ask children for help – such as looking for a “lost pet.” If an adult asks for their help, they should say they’ll ask their parents then immediately leave to do so.
Emphasize the importance of not only avoiding talking to strangers, but never agreeing to go anywhere with them as well. Teach your child not to catch a ride with strangers or to even get close to their car. If your child is supposed to be picked up by someone other than yourself, create a code word that only you, your child, and the adult responsible for picking them up knows. If anyone tries to follow or chase them, make sure they know to run and scream for help.
If your child is old enough to stay home alone, make sure they keep the doors locked at all times and know never to answer the door. If your child is ever in danger at home and you’re unable to help them, point out trusted neighbors whose homes they can go to. If your child wants to leave the house, make sure you know where they plan to be, who they plan to be with, and have multiple ways they can contact you and vice versa, in case of emergency.
Furthermore, teach your child to say, “No” to anyone who tries to do something wrong or inappropriate. If something happens, your child should immediately tell you or a trusted adult about what happened.
Lastly, teach your child to never accept gifts from a stranger. On Halloween, make sure to thoroughly check their candy before allowing them to eat it. Only allow them to eat pre-packaged treats, and never anything that has been re-wrapped.
What to Do If Your Child Is Missing
Even by taking precautions, abductions can still happen. If you ever find yourself in this situation, the most important thing you can do is to try your best to remain calm. Doing so will help you remain rational and logical whole assisting authorities with critical information.
With that being said, the first few hours after an abduction happens are the most critical.2 As soon as you notice your child is missing, you should immediately report it to local law enforcement. Keep update information such as fingerprints, height, weight, medical and dental records, and any unique features about your child handy. Some pediatric offices provide forms to use for the appropriate information. Be prepared to answer many questions, including the last time and place you saw them, as well as what they were wearing.
You may also request that your child’s abduction be entered into the National Crime and Information Center (NCIC). Other clearinghouses such as the Child Protection Education of America (866) USA-CHILD and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (800) 843-5678 can offer information and support during your search.2
Categories: Child Safety Ages 4-11, Infant/Toddler Safety, Safety Tips