According to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, roughly 800,000 children are reported missing each year. More than 2,000 a day. Even though the vast majority of these cases end with the child found safe, and never having been in danger. The sheer number is still shocking.
As a parent, it is impossible to watch over your children at all times of the day. That’s why it is so important that parents teach their kids how to identify and assess potentially dangerous situations and ways to deal with them to protect themselves.
Here are some tips provided to keep you on your guard:
- Keep the lines of communication open between you and your children. They should know your cell phone number, home phone number, as well as their own address.
- Give your child a code word Find a simple word, something easy to remember, like “gorilla” or “jellybean.” Tell your child to trust only an adult who knows the word. Children are usually kidnapped in cars, often by a person who says they’ve been sent by the child’s parents. This jived with a story I’d heard about a girl in Florida, an heir to a pasta fortune. She was kidnapped at age nine. She was told at school that her parents couldn’t pick her up and a car would be sent for her. The car drove her to a cabin in deep woods. Luckily for her, as for 94 percent of abducted children, she was found unharmed within days; she’d passed the time by doing her homework. But a code word might have prevented her from climbing blithely into that car.
- Children in trouble shouldn’t just scream, they should use their words
Reassure your child that it’s extremely unlikely that a stranger would try to take him or her, but add that if it ever happens, they should yell as loud as they can, calling out something specific like “Help! This man is not my dad!” Otherwise, people may mistake a screaming child for a kid just having tantrum.
- Emergency hot spots At a playground, amusement park or any other crowded location, always identify the nearest help and information centres, emergency stations and police posts. Inform your children where to go and what to do in an emergency or if they get lost.
- GPS tracking device GPS tracking devices, like the kidsport GPS band, are developed specifically for kids and allow parents to locate their kids using their smart phones, iPads or computers. The kidsport GPS band features an alert button that sends you an immediate text if your child needs you; a secure latch to prevent unintended removal; a removal alert that texts you when the band is taken off; and a Geo-Fence Boundary Alert that sends you a text if the band crosses a boundary you set.
- Keep friends close If your child is going to a place they’ve never been to before or aren’t that well familiar with, it’s advisable they take a trusted friend along.
- Decline the odd job offer Kids aren’t likely to receive job offers, so consider it strange if your child does. Tell them to always turn them down – even if it’s simply a request for assistance with something.
- Make them understand you’re not deliberately spying. If your child is still young and vulnerable, it could be a good idea to monitor their time spent online – that’s where the predators usually lurk. Just make it clear it’s not an excuse for you to snoop through their private messages or interactions.
- Establish a plan of action In the event your child gets lost in a busy public space, they’ll know what to do or where to meet you.
- Don’t put your child’s name on a backpack or clothing Don’t make it easy for potential abductor to call to your child by name. Children tend to trust people who know their names.