Childhood Abductions: Facts and Prevention
It is too terrible to even think about: Your child is taken from you. Because of the nature of the media attention these cases receive, it might seem that child abductions are very common. However, stereotypical kidnappings (strangers taking a child for ransom, keeping them or killing them) are rare. Most kids enjoy safe childhoods. But there are many things you can do to help keep it that way.
Facts about child abductions
First, here are some facts about child abductions:
- Nearly 800,000 children less than 18 years old are reported missing every year, and 2,100 reports of missing children are filed each day.
- Of those, 200,000 are reported abducted by family members and 58,000 taken by non-family members.
- Most children who are reported missing have run away, or there was a misunderstanding with their parents over where they were supposed to be.
- Only 115 children per year are the victims of stereotypical kidnappings.
- Children are rarely taken from school grounds.
Tips for protecting your child against abduction
Here is what you can do to help keep your child safe:
- Stay together. Do not leave your child alone in a car or in the stroller, even for a few minutes.
- Monitor Web surfing. Keep a close watch on your child’s Internet activity — especially chat rooms. Remind your child never to give out his personal information. Avoid posting identifying information of your child online.
- Be watchful. Keep a close eye on your child in places like shopping malls, playgrounds, public bathrooms and parks.
- Keep good records. Make sure your child’s medical and dental records are up to date.
- Carry a current photo. You should always have a recent, good quality photograph of your child, such as a school photo.
- Don't be a name dropper. Don’t dress your child in clothing bearing his name. Children tend to trust adults who know their names.
- Check backgrounds. When hiring nannies and babysitters, do a thorough background check. Call multiple references.
- Know how to call for help. Make sure your child knows her address and phone number and knows how to call 911.
- Teach safe habits. Give your child a plan if he gets separated from you at a mall, store or public place. Tell your child to go to a cashier or security guard for help.
In addition, teach your children about strangers and safety. Make sure they know these basic safety measures:
- Don't take things from strangers. Never accept any gifts or candy from strangers.
- Don't go with strangers. Never go anywhere with adults you don’t know, even if they makes it sound fun or if they seem like they need your help. (Some predators ask children to help them find a missing pet or to come and see the cute litter of kittens in their car.)
- Run from danger. If approached by a stranger who asks you to follow him or tries to force you into a car, run away and scream loudly for help.
- Talk to an adult you know. Say no to anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Tell a parent if you are approached by a stranger, asked personal questions, or if someone acts inappropriately around you.
- Get permission first. Always ask permission before going to a friend’s house, leaving the house or leaving the backyard.
- Keep the door locked. Never open the front door to strangers.
Reviewed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello Jr., MD
Date: November 2012