May 25th is National Missing Childrens Day. This is a week where the folks at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) are joined by others who work in the area of child protection to educate families, teachers and policy makers on how to keep kids safe.
Lately, in the mom-blog world there’s been a lot of crime statistics being quoted that imply that these people really don’t have any work left to do. Lenore Skenazy decries that crime is at a 40 year low and that we’re all succumbing to “Predator Paranoia”. That this is due to the media and not to any actual danger or risk. This message has been all over the internet, on TV, and even in Time Magazine in the past week. The week leading up to National Missing Children’s Day.
I respect Lenore Skenazy and her commitment to helping kids and families live happier, better lives. “Free Range Parenting” and “Take Your Child to the Park and Leave Them There Day” (which was last Saturday) have started a lot of important conversations about how we parent our kids. But one part of the conversation troubles me; the quoting of crime stats that essentially dismisses the child protection community out of hand as being “fear mongers”, when in fact they do extremely meaningful and important work.
I also have a tiny issue with the use of social media and the press to promote “Take Your Child to the Park and Leave Them There Day” as an annual event. While I might be someday inclined to let my kids go to the park unsupervised, I’m certainly not going advertise that on the internet ahead of time. There’s a HUGE difference between making an informed choice to say, leave your doors unlocked, and the choice to share with the entire internet that your house is wide open.
That doesn’t make sense to me.
The suggestions and tips from NCMEC do make sense to me. And taking a few common sense steps to educate yourself and your kids can go a long way towards helping all of us be more comfortable and less afraid. Which I think we can all agree is a good thing. Need an example? Read this:
“An analysis of attempted abduction cases by NCMEC found that in 81% of the cases, children escaped would-be abductors through their own actions, by yelling, kicking, pulling away, running away or attracting attention.”
Aren’t you happy to know that? Don’t you think that’s a great thing to discuss with your kids? That they should feel empowered to use their voices and their bodies to protect themselves? To keep themselves safe and make smart choices?
Here are NCMEC’s 25 Ways to Keep Kids Safe:
- Teach your children their full names, address, and home telephone number. Make sure they know your full name.
- Make sure your children know how to reach you at work or on your cell phone.
- Teach your children how and when to use 911 and make sure your children have a trusted adult to call if they’re scared or have an emergency.
- Instruct children to keep the door locked and not to open the door to talk to anyone when they are home alone. Set rules with your children about having visitors over when you’re not home and how to answer the telephone.
- Choose babysitters with care. Obtain references from family, friends, and neighbors. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask children how the experience with the caregiver was and listen carefully to their responses.
On the Internet
- Learn about the Internet. The more you know about how the Web works, the better prepared you are to teach your children about potential risks. Visit www.NetSmartz.org for more information about Internet safety.
- Place the family computer in a common area, rather than a child’s bedroom. Also, monitor their time spent online and the websites they’ve visited and establish rules for Internet use.
- Know what other access your child may have to the Internet at school, libraries, or friends’ homes.
- Use privacy settings on social networking sites to limit contact with unknown users and make sure screen names don’t reveal too much about your children.
- Encourage your children to tell you if anything they encounter online makes them feel sad, scared, or confused.
- Caution children not to post revealing information or inappropriate photos of themselves or their friends online.
- Walk the route to and from school with your children, pointing out landmarks and safe places to go if they’re being followed or need help. If your children ride a bus, visit the bus stop with them to make sure they know which bus to take.
- Remind kids to take a friend whenever they walk or bike to school. Remind them to stay with a group if they’re waiting at the bus stop.
- Caution children never to accept a ride from anyone unless you have told them it is OK to do so in each instance.
Out and About
- Take your children on a walking tour of the neighborhood and tell them whose homes they may visit without you.
- Remind your children it’s OK to say NO to anything that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused and teach your children to tell you if anything or anyone makes them feel this way.
- Teach your children to ask permission before leaving home.
- Remind your children not to walk or play alone outside.
- Teach your children to never approach a vehicle, occupied or not, unless they know the owner and are accompanied by a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult.
- Practice “what if” situations and ask your children how they would respond. “What if you fell off your bike and you needed help? Who would you ask?”
- Teach your children to check in with you if there is a change of plans.
- During family outings, establish a central, easy-to-locate spot to meet for check-ins or should you get separated.
- Teach your children how to locate help at theme parks, sports stadiums, shopping malls, and other public places. Also, identify those people who they can ask for help, such as uniformed law enforcement, security guards and store clerks with nametags.
- Help your children learn to recognize and avoid potential risks, so that they can deal with them if they happen.
- Teach your children that if anyone tries to grab them, they should make a scene and make every effort to get away by kicking, screaming, and resisting.
To learn more about the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and National’s Missing Children’s Day, click here.
Read more from Julie at her blog Rants from MommyLand. Follow Julie on Facebook and Twitter for additional goofy nonsense at no extra charge. You can catch up on her posts for Babble Pets and Strollerderby, too – where she is often slightly less stupid.