Child abduction – two words that strike fear into the heart of every parent.
Sadly, not only is child abduction a common occurrence, frighteningly, it’s also on the rise with a staggering 2,185 children going missing every single day.
No, that’s not a typo, that’s the terrifying rate at which children go missing in the US every day.
Recently, writer and mother, Karrie Marie wrote about how she wants to lower these statistics. And she intends to do it with just one word.
“We can only do so much to protect our children the best that we can. Teaching our children safety measures are a very important factor in keeping them safe.”
“Every household should create an easily remembered secret word or phrase to use in the event that some one else has to pick up your child(ren). This may or may not be a person that is familiar to your child(ren). However something has come up and you can’t be present to pick up your child(ren).”
“Therefore you assign another person to arrive for the child(ren) in event of your absence. It is so imperative to use a secret word or phrase even if the child(ren) does know the person that is taking them.”
“It is very important that you also realise that more child abductions occur within family than by strangers.”
Marie encourages parents to allow the child to come up with the safe word themselves so not only does the word sink in, it will also be something that they are familiar with.
She further advises parents to not become too relaxed or complacent, especially if they are the parent who would usually pick the child up.
“Many parents may think that they wouldn’t have to worry about this due to that they are always there for the child(ren)’s arrival. However this is strongly needed in the event of emergencies.”
“Children are innocent and if not taught well, would be willing to believe that a member of the family or a stranger may have been sent to get them since their parents couldn’t make it. This begins the child’s abduction. This is something that may have been easily prevented.”
The “safe word” or “password” is also backed up by The Morcombe Foundation. Tragically, Daniel Morcombe was abducted when he was only 13 years old and innocently waiting for a bus that never arrived. The Morcombes have worked tirelessly ever since his abduction and subsequent death to raise awareness about child abduction and how to avoid it:
“Our son Daniel did not get a second chance. His legacy is that you can learn from this tragic event and make sure it does not happen again. Daniel has given you that second chance.”
The following are some tips The Morcombe Foundation advise to keep your child safe from abduction:
1. When you can, stay with a friend. Even if you have a fight with your mate, don’t go off alone.
2. Be observant. Notice who’s around you and what they’re doing.
3. Have a family password. Something like your favourite food – lasagne, for example. If a person says they are meant to pick you up, test them on the password.
4. With your parents, make a list of 5 adults you trust. If you ever feel uneasy about anybody or anything, tell one of these people and know you won’t get into trouble. If you feel you’re not being listened to, try someone else.
5. Don’t share information about yourself, like your hobbies or the name of your school with people you don’t know, online or in real life.
There are those who argue that the majority of child abductions take place at the hands of someone who is known to them and whilst this is true, this wasn’t the case in Daniel Morcombe’s abduction.
Marie also raises another good point. What is a stranger? We ourselves were told to “Not talk to strangers” when were kids but what exactly does a stranger look like and how can children identify one?
“Explain to your children what a stranger is. There is a very helpful website for children to read on this matter it is, http://www.fbi.gov/kids/k5th/safety4.htm.”
“There is a lot more information on that site and I strongly encourage you to have your child(ren) read it. If the child(ren) can’t read please read it to them. As a child I was simply told “don’t talk to strangers”, without any other explanations. It seems self explanatory however it can be very confusing to a young child.”
“Advise your child(ren) that if a stranger doesn’t give them the secret word or phrase that they should quickly run away from that stranger. Explain to them that strangers in which would try to trick them in order to take them do not have good intentions for the child(ren).”
Also, as Marie writes, the trick is to not get complacent. You can’t just have the conversation once, it needs to be ongoing and become a normal conversation without necessarily frightening the child.
“Weekly reminders of the secret word or phrase should be conducted. Please be sure to do this in a private setting. Advise adults in which need to pick up your child at that time of this secret word or phrase.”
“I encourage you also to change this secret word or phrase after each time that you use this. Simply due to the fact, that if you do not this person may be able to pick up your child(ren) when you may not want them to.”
“Therefore it is crucial that the secret word or phrase be changed after each time the child(ren) is picked up by a person.”
So surely this makes sense? Agreeing on one word or even one phrase that only you and your child or children know as their safe word can only be a positive thing right?
Have you had the conversation?
Do you have a safe word? Do you think this a good idea?