Written by Pamela K. Orgeron, M.A., Ed.S., BCCC, ACLC, Author
The increasing number of child abductions or attempted abductions that I have read about over the last couple of days disturbs me. I wonder what more can be done to protect our children from these child predators? Obviously, in my opinion, there is no one pat answer that would prevent all children from being abducted. The solution lies in parents, extended family members, school officials, legislators, law enforcement, and even in children themselves working together to protect our children.
Commonsense approaches, such as teaching children to not talk to or to get in the car of a stranger, are no longer enough, especially when the abductors are often non-custodial parents, other relatives, or acquaintances of the children being targeted. Furthermore, many of the situations seem to be where children have developed online relationships with their abductors who coerce the victims to leave with them willingly. What can parents and other caregivers responsible for children do to protect their children?
The suggestions I offer may sound old-fashioned and out-dated but if they save a child’s life, what is considered politically correct, in style, or the latest trend should not matter. Here are tips parents and other primary caregivers can do that I believe would help decrease the chances of a child being abducted (in no particular order of importance):
- Children do not need a cell phone. Do not give them one, at least one that has Internet access.
- Children should not have computers, televisions, or other electronic devices in their bedrooms, regardless of how much they say their friends do. The older generations didn’t have such devices, and they survived. So will your children.
- If possible homeschool your children. This should minimize those situations where children get mixed up with the “wrong” crowd or “wrong” person traveling to and from school, or while at school.
- Monitor who your children are friends with. Get to know the parents/caregivers of your children’s friends to make sure you have similar standards and goals for the children.
- I recommend children 16 and under not be allowed outside without a responsible adult to supervise. Children 17 and older should be encouraged to travel in groups of three or more, never alone.
- Know the “red flags” to watch for in a potential perpetrator or abductors who might be “grooming” your child. See Perpetrators . . . Know the Warning Signs. At an age-appropriate level teach children also to know the indicators of someone who might want to abuse or abduct them.
- Build your child’s trust to where he or she will feel free to let you know when something feels amiss to him or her in a situation or relationship. If you are not close, teach them where or to whom he or she can go to get help, for example, a trusted friend, a hospital, or a police station.
- Learn a few self-defense techniques and encourage your children to do likewise.
- Make sure extended relatives, friends, and school officials (if not homeschooling) of a child know who the child is permitted to keep company with, especially if there is an estranged parent or someone else who could be a threat to the child.
- Never leave children alone in a vehicle or at home.
- At home, children should not be permitted to answer the door when someone knocks, even if someone you know is expected.
- Make sure you know where and with whom your children are with at all times. Be the parent, not a friend!
What can schools do to avert child abductions?
- Block students from using social media (e.g.: Facebook, Twitter, etc.) on school computers.
- Teach students about the dangers of predators and what to do if approached by one.
- Have police patrol on campus during hours of school operation.
- Teach students to travel in groups.
- Offer self-defense courses.
What more can law enforcement and legislators do to thwart would-be child abductions?
- Policemen, prosecutors, and judges need to make sure that existing legislation on the books regarding child abduction is enforced to the fullest.
- Legislators need to toughen laws and punishments for child perpetrators and abductors.
- Police forces can sponsor community events teaching parents and children how to protect themselves against those persons who prey on children.
One last suggestion to help minimize child abductions is that everyone, even those who are not around children, can do is to pray a hedge of protection around today’s children. Obviously, prayer won’t stop every child abduction, as perpetrators have free will to decide their behaviors. However, I believe if parents/caregivers, school officials, law enforcement officers, legislators, and others in the community work together in following the tips recommended above, then the number of child abductions could be decreased. I encourage each of us to work together to protect our children.