Safety Tips for Parents
You and your child can be safer when you "think smart." The tips noted below, provided by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children®, are examples of the educational materials available for parents and children. To learn more or find out how you can help combat child abduction and sexual exploitation, visit www.missingkids.com.
For Parents of Infants
Prior to discharge from the healthcare facility after the birth of your child, request a set of written guidelines on the procedures for any follow-up care extended by the facility that will be scheduled to take place in your home.
- If you plan to publish a birth announcement, consider the risk you may be taking, and do not include your home address and limit the listing to your surnames.
- The use of outdoor decorations to announce the birth of your baby are not recommended because they draw attention to the presence of an infant in your home.
- Use caution in creating web sites for your new baby or posting photographs of your child on web sites. Predators can access this identifying information, and the photographs become part of the world wide web. You have no control over the use, or misuse, of these materials once they are posted.
- Only allow persons in your home who are well known by the mother. Be extremely cautious of anyone who demonstrates a great deal of attention to your baby or wants contact with your child alone.
- Instruct other family members to be diligent when they are home with the baby. All family members should be sensitive to any suspicious visitors, and notification to the appropriate authorities should be made.
For Parents of Toddlers
Basic safety information can begin to be taught when your child is able to speak and put words together.
- Children should be taught their name and parent’s name and to stay with you when you go places together. If they get separated from you, teach them not to wander away and to ask for help from a store clerk with a nametag or uniformed law-enforcement/security officer. Make sure your children understand that they should never look for you on their own or with someone else, even these "helping" adults.
- Be sure to screen babysitters and caregivers. Many states now have a public registry that allows parents to check out individuals for prior criminal records and sex offenses. Check out references with other families who have used the caregiver or babysitter. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask your children how the experience with the caregiver was, and listen carefully to the responses.
- If your child is in a childcare facility, find out who supervises the children especially when in the restrooms and during naptime. Find out what other adults will have access to your child while he or she is in the facility. Get a written copy of the discipline policy at the facility.
- Never leave children unattended in an automobile, whether it is running or not. Children should never be left unsupervised or allowed to spend time alone or with others in automobiles, as the potential dangers to their safety outweigh any perceived convenience or "fun."
- Make sure you know where each of your children is at all times. Drop in unexpectedly on babysitters or caregivers to see how your children are doing. Listen carefully if they tell you that they don’t want to be with someone or go somewhere. This may be an indication of more than a personality conflict or lack of interest in the activity or event.
- Teach your children that they have the right to say NO to any unwelcome, uncomfortable, or confusing touch or actions by others. Teach them to tell you immediately if this happens. Reassure them that you’re there to help and it is okay to tell you anything.
For Parents of Children Ages 4 to 8
- Children as young as 4 or 5 can be taught their address and telephone number and how to use a telephone. Teach them to check first with you or a trusted adult before they go anywhere, accept anything, or get into a car with anyone.
- Children should not go out alone and should always take a friend with them when they go places or play outside. A trusted adult should observe younger children at all times.
- Children should stay with you or another trusted adult when in public places. If they get separated from you, teach them not to wander away and to ask for help from a store clerk with a nametag or uniformed law-enforcement/security officer. Instruct children to ask these "helping" adults to "find my parents and bring them to me here." Make sure your children understand that they should never look for you on their own or with someone else, even these "helping" adults. Above all they should never go to an isolated area or parking lot to look for you.
- Teach them it’s okay to say no if someone tries to touch them or treat them in a way that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused and to get out of the situation as quickly as possible.
- Children need to know that they can tell you or a trusted adult if they feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused; there will always be someone there to help them; and they have the right to be safe.
- Be sensitive to any changes in your children’s behavior or attitude. Encourage open communication and learn how to be an active listener. Look and listen to small cues and clues that something may be troubling your children, because children are not always comfortable disclosing disturbing events or feelings. This may be because they are concerned about your reaction to their problems. If your children do confide problems to you, strive to remain calm, noncritical, and nonjudgmental. Listen compassionately to their concern, and work with them to get the help they need to resolve the problem.
- Practice what you teach. Make outings "teachable" moments to reinforce safety skills. You may think your children understand your message, but until they can incorporate it into their daily lives, it may not be clearly understood. Find opportunities to practice "what-if" scenarios and allow your children to practice checking with you, using pay telephones, going to the restroom with a friend, and locating the adults who can help if they need assistance.
- Notice when someone shows one or all of your children a great deal of attention or begins giving them gifts. Take the time to talk to your children about the person and find out why the person is acting in this way.
- Be involved in your children’s activities. As an active participant, you’ll have a better opportunity to observe how the adults in charge interact with your children. If you are concerned with anyone’s behavior, take it up with the sponsoring organization.
- Listen to your children. Pay attention if they tell you that they don’t want to be with someone or go somewhere. This may be an indication of more than a personality conflict or lack of interest in the activity or event.
- The biggest myth is that the dangers to children come from "strangers." In the majority of cases, the perpetrator is someone the parent(s) or child knows, and that person may be in a position of trust or responsibility to the child, parents, and other family members.
- Make sure you have "safety nets" in place, so that you and your children know there is always someone who can help them.
- Remember that there is no substitute for your attention and supervision. Being available and taking time to really know and listen to your children helps build feelings of safety and security.
For information about these and other topics, please call NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or visit www.missingkids.com.