Every day, when at the grocery store, at the mall or at community events, children go wandering off on their own. You can see them walking aimlessly with no parent or older sibling in sight. Before the parents or sibling notices that the youngest part of the group has decided to go in a different direction, a stranger approaches the child and offers them some candy, a cookie, maybe even a puppy to take home, but first they have to go with them to an unmarked, undistinguishable van. The next thing you hear are the calls of someone looking for their child frantically, but it’s too late, they’ve already been kidnapped. It doesn’t have to happen like this.
One of my biggest pet peeves has become parents that don’t watch their child and instead, they allow them to go wander off wherever they’d like. The number of children and adolescents taken each year is astounding. The U.S. Department of Justice reports:
- 797,500 children (younger than 18) were reported missing in a one-year period of time studied resulting in an average of 2,185 children being reported missing each day.
- 203,900 children were the victims of family abductions.
- 58,200 children were the victims of non-family abductions.
- 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. (These crimes involve someone the child does not know or someone of slight acquaintance, who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.)
There is something that you can do, however, to help prevent your children from being kidnapped.
Keep a Firm Grip
When you’re out with your child, under the age of 14, if at all possible, you should always have a physical hand on them. Whether you’re holder their hand, holding onto the back of their shirt, or even holding onto a leash you attached to them, make sure that you have some sort of physical contact with them. If you can’t have physical contact with them, maybe they’re being grouchy or feeling independent and don’t want you touching them, at least have them at arm’s length so that you can grab them if need be.
With teenagers and adolescents, it’s no secret that they aren’t hugely touchy-feely most of the time and the last thing they want to do is hold your hand so this may not be feasible with your teenager.
Have a Watchful Eye
Observation is a huge key to preventing your child from being kidnapped. If you can’t have a physical hand on them for one reason or another, your eyes should be on them at least part of the time. Notice what your child is doing, where they’re going, and the people around them. Moreover, make sure to put those emotional feelers out there. By emotional feelers, I’m referring to that feeling you get when your child may be in danger or in some sort of trouble. Parents, you should know what I’m talking about here. That sixth sense you gain when you become a parent. Simply being aware and keeping a close eye on your child could be a lifesaver, but this does not mean that you should be a helicopter parent—your child does need some room to learn and grow.
Put the Cell Phone Down
Cell phones are both a blessing and a curse. They have most of us addicted to them so much that we hardly put them down. Well, I’m telling you right now: PUT THE CELL PHONE DOWN. The time that your child starts to wander off on their own is generally when you’re busy on your cell phone. You can multitask, you say? Then why is it that I see your child down another aisle while you’re face is glued to your phone? Trust me: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Candy Crush Saga, your friends, and family members, will all be there later, but your child may not be.
Call in the Reinforcements
When you’re going out—especially to a community event or amusement parks with large crowds—don’t go alone with your children. Bring your significant other if at all possible, but if not, bring your closest friend or family member. This is more so important if you have multiple children with you. With a second, or even third, person with you, you’ll be able to keep an eye on all of your children and know where they are at all times even if you look away. In my opinion, for every child there is, there should be an adult. This may not always be possible, but when you can do this, you should.
Know their Friends
In particular for adolescents, it’s important to know who their friends are. You never know who they are going to hang out with or what their family may be like. Make a point to get to know your child’s friends, their friend’s family, and their friends’ friends. Don’t go overboard with wanting to know every detail of their life and become a helicopter parent, but make connections. Knowing who and where your teen will go to when they’re angry or upset is something particularly important because if you have a fight with your child, they will more than likely go to that person and at least you will know where they are.
One thing to Remember
I don’t want to scare you, but you have to keep in mind that kidnappings are not always done by strangers. Friends, acquaintances, and even family members can be kidnappers. Make sure you really know the people with which you surround yourself. Be aware of what is going on in their lives because all it takes is a mental break, a miscarriage, a death of a child, or the undesirable need to have a child and yours could be the one they have their eye on. This is why it is important to always keep an eye on your child and be hyper vigilant when it comes to their wellbeing. Being hyper vigilant does not mean being a helicopter parent, it just means being more aware.
Keep your children and adolescents safe by doing a few simple actions when you’re out in public together.
How have things changed since you were a child? Do you think there are more dangers out there?
How do you protect your child or adolescent from being abducted or kidnapped?
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2013, from http://www.missingkids.com/en_US/documents/PressKit_Statistics.pdf#page=1
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Posted on July 15, 2013 by Felicia