"Don't talk to strangers." It's probably the first thing that pops into your mind when you're thinking of what to say to help your children be street-smart. Unfortunately, it's not enough.
In most missing child cases, the danger comes from someone the child or the parents know.
In 2007, there were 285 parental abductions in Canada compared to 56 stranger abductions, according to an annual report released by National Missing Children Services. According to the agency, children under the age of 12 are most vulnerable to parental abductions.
The agency reported the following:
- Forty-four per cent of children taken in parental abduction cases were under the age of five.
- Thirty-one per cent of parental abduction cases involved children aged six to 11.
- Twenty-five per cent of cases involved children and teens aged 12 to 17.
Stranger abductions involve cases in which children are abducted by someone other than their parent or guardian. The stranger could be a close friend, neighbour, uncle, grandparent or another family member. In 2007, 34 females and 22 males were abducted by strangers. Seventy-one per cent of the children were taken from their family or foster home.
Tips for parents
National Missing Children Services also offers a comprehensive list of tips to parents that includes the following:
- Ensure that children know their name, address, telephone, parents' names and places of work. They should also know how to call 911 in an emergency. This information should be reviewed regularly.
- Young children should hold hands with their parents when walking and should be discouraged from wandering away.
- Encourage kids to travel in groups.
- Demand that children check with a parent before accepting gifts or rides from someone, even acquaintances and family friends. Create a family code word that signals to the child it is OK to be picked up by another adult in the event of an emergency.
- Tell children it's OK to say "no" and respond loudly and physically if someone tries to take them against their will.
Tips for kids
Child Find Canada has the following nine rules for kids to learn:
- Get permission before going somewhere.
- Say no to drugs.
- Trust my inner feelings.
- I go somewhere, I always use the buddy system.
- Someone touches me that makes me feel uncomfortable, I tell someone I trust.
- I'm scared and need help, I can call "0" (operator) or 911.
- Keep secrets that make me feel bad.
- Accept gifts or money without first checking with my parents.
- Accept car rides unless I have permission from my parents.