Many parents are concerned about child abduction by strangers. Although this is a legitimate concern, keep in mind that stranger abduction is rare. Family members or acquaintances are responsible for most child abductions. Train your child to be aware of his or her surroundings, how to identify a threat, and how to react. When children reach age 3, they can begin to understand some of these basic concepts.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) recommends teaching your child the following tips to help prevent abduction:
- Stay away from strangers. Explain what makes a person a stranger. Note that even someone with a familiar face is a stranger if you do not know him or her well.
- Stay away from anyone who is following you on foot or in a car. Don't get close to them or feel as though you must answer any questions they ask you.
- Run and scream if someone tries to force you to go somewhere with them or tries to push you into a car.
- Memorize a secret code word. Tell your child not to go with anyone under any circumstances unless that person also knows this code word.
- Adults shouldn't ask children for help. For example, a child shouldn't trust grown-ups who ask kids for directions or for help finding a puppy or kitten. A child who is approached in this way should tell the person, "Wait here and I'll check with my mom or dad," and then find his or her parents right away.
- Ask for help when you are lost. If you get lost in a public place, immediately ask someone who works there for help.
- Always ask for permission before going anywhere with anybody. Ask a parent or the grown-up in charge before leaving the yard or play area, or before going into someone's home. Do not accept any unplanned offers for a ride—from someone known or unknown.
- Always tell a parent where you are going, how you will get there, who is going with you, and when you will be back. Be home at the agreed-upon time or else find a way to contact home directly.
If your child is lost or missing, being able to provide information quickly to the authorities will save them valuable time in searching for your child:
- Be prepared with a good description of your child. Have a close-up photograph of your child taken every 6 months. Keep track of and write down details about your child's appearance, such as height and weight, eye color, birthmarks, scars, and identifiable mannerisms (such as hair-twisting).
- Have your child fingerprinted. Check with your local police department for instructions.
- Stay calm. You are more likely to remember helpful details if you can remain calm.
Current as of: August 21, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine