(This is a follow up article to my original post “Stranger Danger – Lessons Alone Don’t Protect Children!” You can read the first part of this article here: ‘Stranger Danger – Part One’)
A child is reported missing every three minutes in the UK, and sadly the true gure is probably much higher if you include unreported cases. There are numerous reasons that can lead to a child going missing or running away.
As a parent or carer for a child or young person, you play a really important role in helping them to stay safe. “Parents Can Teach About Personal Safety Without Causing Unwarranted Fear!” says Dr. Daniel Broughton a professor at Mayo Clinic and director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Here’s some advice that may help you to do this.
Advice To Help You Keep Your Child Safe:
Some of the advice here is suited for younger children and some for older children. Your own circumstances will dictate which of the below is relevant to you and your child.
- Teach your child their full name, your full name and telephone number; even if they have a mobile phone – these can get lost.
- Include your contact details in whatever your child carries with them (mobile phone, backpack etc) so you can be easily contacted in an emergency.
- Teach your child not to provide personal information – such as their home address and the name of their school – to a stranger.
- Teach your child to ring 999 from a mobile phone, public phone or home phone in an emergency.
- Teach your child which authority figures or public figures they can trust and reach out to in times of need.
- Teach your child to yell for help if a stranger tries to take them somewhere. Get your child into the habit of asking for permission to walk away from you, even if only for a moment.
- Listen to your child if they say they do not like a particular adult and ask why.
- Instruct your child not to open the door at home without your permission.
- Teach your child to keep their distance from people in approaching cars who speak to them and run to a trusted adult.
- Agree a ‘safe word’ to be used if you allow an adult unknown to your child to pick them up.
- Ensure your child tells you or someone you know where they are going if leaving home without adult supervision.
- Away from home, older children should always be with a friend, always tell an adult where they will be, and say “no” if they feel threatened or uncomfortable.
- In crowded places, make sure you and your child know how to nd each other if you get separated. Bright/distinctive clothing is a good idea (if you can convince them). Agree a central location to meet.
- Encourage your child to let you know if anyone tells them to keep something secret, makes them feel uncomfortable or makes them do something that they don’t want to.
- Encourage your child to stay in a group and avoid quiet or badly lit locations where possible.
- Remind your child to fully charge their mobile before leaving home. Also, agree with them that they will let you know when they arrive at their destination and when they are due to return.
- Encourage your child to talk about their problems. If they don’t feel like they can talk to you or another trusted adult they can contact ChildLine on 0800 1111.
- Parents need to listen, and respect their children’s feelings. Children can sense unease in inappropriate relationships. They’ll likely share their concerns if parents routinely take all of their concerns in life seriously rather than downplaying or shaming them.
- Children need to know that they do not need to kiss, hug, touch or sit on the lap of anyone, relative or not, if they do not wish to. This respect for their wishes translates into self-respect and the ability for children to say no to unwanted contact without generating fear.
- Parents need to keep reinforcing safety messages through middle school and high school. According to the U.S Department of Justice, of most victims of non family abductions were 12 years or older 58%. Most were girls (65%).
- Parents should realise the limitations of participating in programmes where children are fingerprinted or otherwise identified. these programmes can frighten children and raise fears in adults without giving perspective not the real nature of risk of abduction.
- Parents should keep on hand a high quality recent photo of each child, such asa school photo. Law enforcement officials consider photos the best tool in finding missing children.
- Teach your child to spot the signs of sexual exploitation. The Thinkuknow website has information and advice for young people about this and what to do if they need help: www.thinkuknow.co.uk/11_13/Need-advice/ Relationship-abuse-and-exploitation
- Parents should promptly report a missing child. Click Here For Some Advice On How To Report Someone Missing
Helping Your Child Stay Safe Online:
Taking steps to help you child be safe online, particularly when they use social media, also plays a really important role in keeping them from harm. Thinkuknow offers information and advice about the risks children and young people may face online – for example, when gaming or using social media sites and apps, how they can stay safe and where to get help.
- Teach your child they can never really know or trust someone they have only met online or not in person. Explain the potential risks involved.
- Explain to your child the risks of using geolocation services on their social media apps, and broadcasting their whereabouts to strangers. Ask them to place privacy controls on their account to control who has access to what they share.
- Advise your child to avoid sharing too much personal information online, including how they are feeling.
- Teach your child the importance of not accepting unknown people into their social network and to block people who make them feel uncomfortable.
- Inform your child that once they post or share a message, photo or video, they lose control of it and it can be circulated to anybody. If they wouldn’t want you to see it, they shouldn’t share it.
- Encourage your child to talk to their friends about these so that they can all stay safe online.
- Parents need to supervise children who use the internet. Although still relatively uncommon, the practice of pedophiles and child molesters approaching children on the internet is occurring more frequently.
- Here’s a great tool to help you set parental controls and monitor usage behaviour on any phone, tablets and computer that your child may be using – Mobicip
How You Can Help Others:
- You can help locate a missing child by taking a few minutes to look at appeals for children missing in your area at www.missingkids.co.uk.
- Additionally, you can sign up to Child Rescue Alerts (CRA). CRA is a system designed to alert the public, as quickly as possible, to an abduction or other high risk child disappearance. Statistics show that the initial hours following a child’s disappearance are crucial and a sighting by a member of the public can lead to the safe recovery of a child. Alerts can be sent directly to your mobile for free – sign up at www.childrescuealert.org.uk
- You can also show your support by sharing appeals from Missing People on Twitter by following @missingpeople. 25th May is International Missing Children’s Day, and you can help us reach more people by supporting the Big Tweet. Find out more at www.missingpeople.org.uk
You can find some helpful information below or Download the complete Parents and Carers Advice Pack for advice on helping to keep your child safe. It includes: Advice to help you keep your child safe, helping your child stay safe online, indicators your child may be at risk of running away, what to do if you think your child is at risk of running away, what to do if your child goes missing or runs away, and wow you can help others.
- Missing And Runaway Children – Advice For Parents And Carers
- Missing People
- Family Guidance Sheets – If you think a loved one is missing
- Missing Kids
- Missing Kids – Advice For Parents
- Missing Kids – Advice about child safety online
- Think U Know
- UK Missing Persons Bureau
- Action Against Abduction
- Railway Children
- Child Rescue Alert
REMEMBER: Child Safety Doesn’t Happen By Accident!
You need to empower your children with “Powerful Knowledge, skills and experiences” to help them learn that they do have the ability to protect themselves and stay safe. Child safety is very much about Empowerment, it is imperative that you find ways to build your child’s confidence. Find programmes and activities that are designed to build your child’s confidence and self-esteem everyday.