What Every Parent Should Know About Child Abduction
Child abduction is every parent’s worst nightmare. Reading or hearing the chilling stories that make headlines in the news is something no parent will ever get used to.
As a parent, you don’t think it could ever happen to your children and do everything in your power to keep them safe from life’s dangers.
The best way to protect your children is to know the facts.
In the U.S. alone, a child goes missing every 40 seconds – that’s 800,000 a year.
Surprisingly, it’s not usually strangers that parents have to worry about. Read on to find out the facts about child abduction and how to prevent it from happening.
Types of Abduction
Although hearing news about a child or teenager getting abducted can be extremely distressing, it’s important to understand that the majority of children reach adulthood safely.
In fact, most of the children reported missing have either run away from home or there’s been a misunderstanding between them and their parents about where they are supposed to be.
Of the children and teenagers who are abducted, only 24% are taken by a stranger or human traffic organization – which means that the abductor is usually someone the child or teen knows and trusts.
There are three types of child abduction: abduction by a family member, abduction by an acquaintance, and abduction by a stranger.
Family abductions occur when a child is abducted by a family member – usually a parent. They most commonly involve children under the age of six. In the majority of cases, the child is unharmed and reunited with their family members. Family abductions account for 49% of all abductions.
Acquaintance abductions are always carried out by somebody the child or teen knows. A significant portion of the abductees are adolescent females, and abduction often occurs in the home. Acquaintance abductions are usually associated with crimes like sexual and physical assault, and they account for 27% of all abductions.
Abductions carried out by strangers usually occur in outdoor locations near the child’s home, like parks, fairs, and crowded kid’s parties. The most common victims are school-aged and teenage females.
The victims are usually taken when their parents aren’t monitoring them or while going to and from extracurricular activities after school. Abductions by strangers account for 24% of abductions.
Abductors will usually try to get their victims into their cars – either by grabbing them off the street or by enticing them into their vehicles with ‘lures.’
Common tactics abductors use on children are asking for help or asking lots of questions to gain their trust. Abductors also use ‘lures’– such as animals, money, candy, and sweets – to get a child’s attention.
However, the most common ‘lure’ is offering the victim a ride. 28% of all abductions involve the victim willfully getting into the abductor’s car.
How to Prevent Child Abductions
While child abduction is a real threat that should be taken very seriously, it can give you peace of mind to remember that the chances of your child being abducted are only one in 300,000. That being said, you can never be too vigilant.
Here are five ways you can prevent it from happening to your child.
“Stranger Danger” is Obsolete
While you should teach your child to stay away from strangers, the old “stranger danger” adage isn’t the best way to teach your child how to avoid being abducted.
To a child, the word “stranger” may evoke a frightening individual, but the truth is that an abductor is more likely to be friendly and will look just like everybody else. Furthermore, if a stranger tells a child that they are friends with their parents, they may no longer consider them a stranger.
It is important to emphasize that your child should not engage with strangers at all – no matter what they say, do, or how they act.
Another thing to bear in mind is that just 25% of abductions are committed by someone the child doesn’t know. So, instead of teaching your child “stranger danger,” rather teach them how to recognize, avoid, and escape potentially dangerous situations – whether they recognize the person or not.
Teach Your Child it’s Okay to Say ‘No’ or Yell
Although we tend to reprimand our children if they are disruptive or too loud, it’s important to teach them that it’s okay to make a loud noise if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe and need to get the attention of the other adults around them.
Act out scenes with your children so they can practice saying “no,” as well as screaming and running away. Make it clear that it’s okay to scream if an adult who is not a parent tries to pick them up.
Avoid Posting Photos on the Internet
Although it may seem natural to want to share photos of your kids on social media, make sure your accounts are private.All a predator needs is a date of birth, address, name, and geotagged location to target your child. If your child is old enough to use the internet, monitor their activity and restrict their use.
Avoid Identifying Clothing
If a child wears team uniforms, personalized shirts, or school uniforms with their name, this can provide abductors and predators with valuable information that they can use to gain the child’s trust. Avoid allowing your child to wear personalized shirts and backpacks that can give a predator their name.
Use Code Words
As a busy parent, you may not always be available to pick your child up from school or other extracurricular activities. You may find yourself in a situation where you have to ask another parent or trusted person to fetch your child.
Sharing a code word or phrase with your child and the trusted adult who will be picking them up will let your child know it’s okay to get in the car with them. Stress that anybody who doesn’t know the code word or phrase is not allowed to pick them up.
What to Do if Your Child is Abducted
When it comes to missing children, the first hours are critical. If your child goes missing, contact the authorities right away.In the U.S., around 2,100 children are reported missing every day. To make solving the case easier, provide the authorities with as much information as possible. Include the child’s weight, height, eye color, what they were wearing, and give them a recent high-quality photo.