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09 June 2010

Missing: keeping kids safe

CyberShrink comments on missing children and how to keep kids safe.

The thought of a child being abducted is chilling. How do you keep children safe? CyberShrink investigates.

One of thousands
In a widely covered and ongoing case, Madeleine McCann went missing in 2007 while unattended in the unlocked family room at a Portuguese resort. The parents, both doctors, were dining nearby. Every parent’s nightmare has come true for this family, and as the questions begin to mount, Madeleine’s parents’ grief must have been awfully compounded with guilt.

  • Don't send small children on errands alone. Many abductions occur close to home when a child has been sent to the nearest shop to buy milk or sweets for an adult.
  • Don't let them walk to school unescorted. Send at least one other child with them – most children are alone when they are abducted.
  • ‘Stranger danger” is misunderstood and exaggerated. Most abductions are done by someone who knows the child, and are often related to domestic disputes. Children need to know how and when to raise the alarm, and should also be able to recognise inappropriate behaviour and tell someone about it.
  • However, abduction by strangers is more dangerous, and is more likely to end in the death of the child. Teach children not to approach a car driven by someone they don't know, and not to accept a ride from strangers unless their parents are with them. Children should not approach a driver who asks for directions, but move to a safe place.
  • They should be highly suspicious when a stranger offers sweets, or toys, or invites them to visit and play with a puppy or kitten. Try role-playing, so the child feels confident about how to handle such situations. And talk to the child about his/her options when they need to find a safe place to retreat to.
  • As adults, we ought to develop awareness of suspicious people and movements around our neighbourhoods. Notice strangers who lurk around places where children gather. Abductors usually have spent some time watching the neighbourhood, identifying vulnerable children.

 
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