The pitch smacked of fearmongering: a promo for temporary ID tattoos for kids, paired with an encouragement to sign up for a registry that lets you put together a profile of your child IN CASE they’re ever abducted.
Do we really need to live in such fear that we’ll pay $19.95 for an update-able registry listing for police to check out should our child ever be grabbed by a sex offender? How about just keeping a current photo of your child on hand?
The Amber Alert Registry bills itself as a way to “prevent your child from becoming an Amber Alert statistic.” Then it launches in to the hard questions: Do you know where your child is at all times?
Unless you have your kids micro-chipped (no, I’m NOT suggesting that), can any parent of a child above the age of maybe three or four say “yes” to that? Even at four, my daughter isn’t with me every second of the day – I can’t control what happens when she’s with my mother or a babysitter. That’s why I try to pick capable, trustworthy people to care for her – but it’s a reality that I can’t have her in my sight every single second of every day.
I can answer the second and third questions with certainty: yes, I know what to do if she goes missing. Like most Americans, the numbers 9-1-1 have been programmed into my head since childhood. And yes, I have the necessary information to provide the cops should something happen, “instantaneously, from anywhere” – I’m her mother; it’s my job.
Like most parents in America, I keep a picture of my child in my wallet. If we’re going somewhere out of the ordinary or to an ultra-crowded place, I snap a picture of her on my cell phone so I also have her most recent clothing options and don’t have to remember them.
I’m even willing to cash in on the temporary tattoos – not because I think there’s a child molester waiting around every corner, but because four-year-olds move fast, and in a crowded amusement park, it’s easy to be separated even when you’re trying to hold tight to a child’s hand. Slap on the temporary tattoo, add your cell phone number in marker, and a child who can’t yet be trusted to share that kind of information with a security guard or policeman can supply the necessary details to be reconnected with you. Some would consider that fearmongering too; I consider it part of the added convenience of modern times – my mom didn’t have a cell phone in case of emergency. We do, and we might as well take advantage of it.
The Amber Alert Registry is taking advantage of technology too – only they’re using it to terrify you. Log onto the site, and a ticker at the top logs how many children have “gone missing” in the time since you surfed in. They base it on the statistic that a child is reported missing every forty seconds – although that number does not address what the reports are for . . . be they runaways, a toddler separated from mom at Chuck E. Cheese or actual abductions. Even so-called “actual” abductions vary, from the ever-popular child custody battle kidnapping (family kidnappings account for almost half of all child kidnappings) to the less common stranger danger.
All told, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, “kidnapping makes up less than two percent of all violent crimes against juveniles reported to police.”
Is that two percent scary enough to make you cough up your dough?