On average, 2,185 children are reported missing daily, reports the U.S. Department of Justice. That number equals 797,525 kids missing in one year. Parents must be alert to the potential dangers strangers can pose to their children. You can protect and keep your children safe in 10 easy ways.
1. Explain who a stranger is. Your children need to know a stranger is anyone they don’t know, even if the person seems friendly and nice. Remind them that adults usually do not ask kids for help finding a lost animal or for directions. If an adult approaches your child and asks for help, instruct her to walk away from the stranger quickly and get to a safe place.
2. Never out of sight. One of the best and easiest ways to keep your children safe is to keep them in sight when you are out. Even at home, know where your children are. Check on them frequently when they are playing in another room.
3. Never leave kids alone in the car. Your kids are not safe locked in a car even on a populated street or in a parking lot. A variety of danger presents itself in this situation, including strangers that can entice children to unlock the door.
4. Talk. Begin talking to your children about the dangers of strangers early. Don’t wait until they are in elementary school. Keep talking about safety as they get older. Even kids at ages 12 and 13 need reminders.
5. Listen. Listen to your children attentively. Do they keep mentioning one name? Ask if their new friend Joe is a classmate. If the answer is no, find out who Joe is. Be alert to any mentions of unsupervised adult interactions your children experience.
6. 911. Everyone child should know how to call 911 or “0” for the operator in an emergency. Teach your children their full name, address and phone number as early as possible. Practice calling 911 with your child, role playing so he will know what to do in an emergency.
7. Updated photos. Keep updated photos of your children on your phone, computer and in your wallet or purse. When visiting public venues such as theme parks, sporting events or museums, snap a picture with your phone when you arrive to have a photo with their current clothing.
8. Safety devices. Consider using devices such as safety tattoos or child tracking devices when visiting large, crowded public venues.
9. Fingerprints. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida recommends having your children fingerprinted and storing the copy in a secure, accessible spot in your home. Participate in a “safety day” event where kids can learn about safety in a fun, non-threatening way. Fingerprinting often is done at these events.
10. Good touch, bad touch. Child Find of America encourages children by the age of 5 to know the difference between good touches and bad touches, as well as the names for the body’s private parts.