Exercising Parental Authority
The number of children reported missing each year is staggering. The following precautions will help protect your child from abduction:
- Never leave your child alone in a vehicle, restroom, store, playground, or other public place. Accompany younger children to restrooms.
- Walk your child to and from school, and point out dangerous spots and safe places to go for help.
- Have your child walk or bike to and from school with a friend. There is safety in numbers.
- Don’t put your children’s names on the outside of their clothes. Children may respond more readily to a stranger who calls them by name.
- If your child takes a bus to and from school, have your child stay with a group while waiting for the bus.
- Make sure that the school will not release your child to anyone but yourself or a person previously designated by you, and that the school will call you back to verify any call saying that some person will come to pick up him or her.
And make sure you teach your child the following:
- Never to leave school with anyone they don’t know.
- Turn around and run to the nearest safe place if a person appears to be following them on foot, or a vehicle slows or stops by them.
- Not to hitchhike or accept a ride from anyone unless you have told them it is OK in each instance. Tell them to say NO and run away to a safe place if offered a ride by a stranger. If avoidance is not possible tell them to make a big scene by screaming, yelling, kicking, and resisting.
- The difference between a stranger who may be a danger and one who may be helpful. The simple "stranger-danger" message is inappropriate because the danger to children is much greater from someone who is not a stranger.
- Stay away from any adult who asks for help, e.g., "Can you help me find my dog?" or asks for directions (an adult should ask another adult, not a child for help), or tries to get you to go somewhere with them, e.g., "Your mom’s hurt and she told me to come get you."
- Keep all doors and windows locked when at home alone. And not to open the door to a stranger or let an uninvited neighbor or acquaintance into your home.
- Not to tell a caller that you are not at home. Have your child say you cannot come to the phone, ask the caller to leave a message, and say you will call back.
For additional information on how to prevent child abduction and what to do if it happens, go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) website and look at the resources for parents and guardians.