According to the US Department of Justice, over 2,000 American children are reported missing each day. Some children are lost; some run away. Others are kidnapped by a family member. Still, others disappear leaving few clues.
Here are some things you can do to help reduce the chance of your child being abducted:
- Do not leave your young child alone (even for a minute) in a stroller, a car, or any public place, such as a restroom.
- Establish neighborhood boundaries in which your children should play.
- Notice if an older child or adult is giving your child a great deal of attention and find out why.
- Be alert to any changes in your child’s mood, behavior, or attitude.
- Make sure that the school does not release your child to anyone but you or someone you designate to pick him or her up.
- Do not buy items such as hats, shirts, or jackets with your child’s name on them. Abductors often use this information so they can call children by their names and gain their trust.
- Make sure your child knows people they can go to if they need help when you are not around.
- Monitor your child’s activity on the Internet, especially on social media sites. Advise them not to communicate with strangers. Never have your child send specific information (eg, address, phone number) to anyone.
Make sure you have the following items:
- An up-to-date color photograph of your child. Take a new one every six months for children six years or younger and once a year for older children.
- A medical and dental history
- A fingerprint card
Talk to Your Children
Many parents feel uneasy about talking to their children about personal safety. They worry that they will scare their children or cause them to be distrustful. If you use effective communication, you can help your children feel more secure and confident about personal safety. This involves:
- Being sensitive to your child's fears
- Explaining the potential danger in certain situations
- Helping your child understand how to protect him or herself in potentially dangerous situations
Be Sensitive to Your Child’s Fears
Let your child know that you are interested in his or her fears and that you want to help. Never criticize your child for his or her fears or concerns. Make sure that your child knows that he or she can come to you to discuss any problem or concern, without fear of judgment or criticism.
Explain the Potential Danger
Parents often give their children rules about safety, without explaining the potential danger in situations. For example, many parents tell their children not to talk to strangers. This is too vague and does not necessarily teach children how to protect themselves. It also does not take into account situations where children might need to ask a stranger for assistance, such as when they are lost or need help. And in many cases of abduction, the perpetrator is a relative or someone else that a child knows, not a stranger. So always be specific when talking to your child about danger.
Teach Your Child How to Handle Potentially Dangerous Situations
Rather than focusing solely on strangers, you and your child need to discuss specific situations that have the potential to be dangerous. You should give examples of these situations and teach your child what to do. Role-playing may be helpful, too.
Tips for Older Children and Teens
Here are some tips for keeping your older children and teens safe:
- Have them tell you where they will be at all times.
- Talk to them about the dangers of hitchhiking.
- Warn them that they should not resist the demands of attackers for money, jewelry, or clothing.
- Advise them to yell for help, run to the closest public place, or run home if they are being followed.
Teach them how to:
- Recognize unusual behavior.
- Describe the details about a person or vehicle.
- Remember license plate numbers.
- Caution them about playing in or walking through deserted areas such as alleys, fields, empty parks, and abandoned buildings.
- Reassure them that they can talk to you about anything.
- Let them know that you are available if they need a ride.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 07/2014 -
- Update Date: 07/15/2014 -