The FBI estimates that at least 2300 children are reported missing every day. Parents should begin educating their children about safety issues at a young age, starting around 3-4 years old. Review the tips with your child, and afterward, please take our quiz to reinforce safety issues.
- Approach the subject of safety in a non-threatening way. It is important that you don't make your child fearful of dangerous situations or people, but cautious and able to recognize when something is not right.
- Encourage your child to trust his or her intuition, and to be able to talk to you when something is bothering them. They should know not to keep secrets from you. Open communication is very important. Really LISTEN to your child.
- Let your child know that their body belongs to them. No one has the right to touch them inappropriately.
- If someone is touching them or making them feel uncomfortable in any way, they should let you know immediately, even if it is a family member.
- Inform your child of the rules pertaining to strangers. Namely, that a stranger looks just like any other person, not like a monster or creature. A stranger is someone that your child does not know, nor does his or her friends and family.
- Strangers will use different ways to lure a child.
- The most common lures are:
Let your child know that adults DO NOT ask children for help
- Pretending to look for a lost dog
- Offering candy or money to make the child go to their car
- Telling the child that family members will be hurt if he or she doesn't comply
- Asking for directions
nor do they threaten them.
- If they do encounter any of the above situations, they should immediately scream, "NO," and run as quickly as they can in the opposite direction and try to find a trusted adult. They should never approach an unknown car or get into a car with an adult that they do not know. If someone tries to grab them, they should scream, "THIS IS NOT MY PARENT!" to attract attention.
- Share an easily remembered secret CODE WORD. Tell your child that if anyone approaches them and says they are a family friend who needs to take them somewhere, (sometimes they say that a parent is hurt and in the hospital, or there's a family emergency) your child must ask for the code word. If the person really is a friend, they will know it. If they don't know it then your child should run away as quickly as possible.
- Never label your child's clothing, backpack, or other personal items with their name. An abductor could use this information to try to gain trust.
- Give instructions on what to do if your child gets separated from you in a mall, supermarket, or other public place. Tell them to go to a checkout counter, information desk, or to approach a security officer or mother with children, and let them know that they are lost and looking for their parent(s).
- Make sure your child knows his or her full name, address, phone number, and the place where you work or can be contacted, as well as how to dial 911, make collect calls, and dial the operator on a pay phone.
- Know where your child is at all times, and keep a list of their friends, addresses, and phone numbers.
- Keep an up-to-date record of your child's personal and medical information on-hand in case of emergency, such as a ChildPrint ID Kit or ChildPrint ID Card. Make sure your child is fingerprinted and that you have a recent photo available at all times.
- Try not to panic if your child is missing. First, check everywhere in the house, then check with the neighbors and your child's friends. If you still cannot locate them, immediately call the police.
TO REPORT A MISSING CHILD TO THE POLICE.
Provide them with a description of what your child is wearing, along with your ChildPrint ID Kit®. Let them know when you last saw them. Request that their name be entered into the National Crime Information Center Missing Person File (NCIC), which enables any law enforcement agency in the U.S. to identify them. Call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST to have them entered into their database. Post signs around your neighborhood and town with their photo and vital information. Be persistent in your search efforts and keep hope alive that they will be found and returned home safely.