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Child Abduction – How to Protect Your Child Safety Education Tips from the Franklin Police Department and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Whether you have children or not, the topic of child abduction instantly horrifies almost everyone. Although some of the stories you hear about regarding child abduction end with a safe return to family and friends, many do not and none have a truly happy ending. Even those who are safely returned are left with horrible memories that will last a lifetime. While child abductions occur each day, we often do not hear of them unless they are reported by local news media or discussed on internet socialization sites. We as law enforcement officers for years have taught children the importance of “Stranger Danger”, but have now modified our educational programs to go beyond just the topic of strangers. We have learned that children often do not have the same understanding of who a stranger is as an adult might, therefore, it is a difficult concept for the child to grasp. The reality is that many children are abducted and/or abused by someone they know or have met on more than one occasion. The Franklin Police Department utilizes a teaching method when educating children that is supported by reliable educational sources. It’s simple and more beneficial; helping them to build the confidence and self-esteem they need to stay as safe as possible in any potentially dangerous situation they encounter rather that teaching them to always be on look out for the stereotypical child abductor. Children should not only be aware of their surroundings and be able to identify dangerous situations, but how to react if they are ever confronted by a predator. It only takes a split second to go from a seemingly safe environment to encountering a potentially life changing event. What are some of the most important things parents should tell children about safety? 1. Always check first with a parent, guardian, or trusted adult before going anywhere, accepting anything, or getting into a car with anyone. 2. Do not go out alone. Always take a friend when going places or playing outside. 3. Say no if someone tries to touch you, or treats you in a way that makes you feel sad, scared, or confused. Get out of the situation as quickly as possible! 4. Tell a parent, guardian, or trusted adult if you feel sad, scared, or confused. 5. There will always be someone to help you, and you have the right to be safe. What should a parent know when talking to a child about safety? 1. Don’t forget your older children. Children aged 11 to17 are equally at risk to victimization. At the same time you are giving your older children more freedom, make sure they understand important safety rules as well. 2. Speak to your children in a manner that is calm and reassuring. Children do not need to be frightened to get the point across. In fact, fear can thwart the safety message, because fear can be paralyzing to a child. 3. Speak openly. Children will be less likely to come to you about issues enshrouded in secrecy. If they feel that you are comfortable discussing the subject at hand, they may be more forthcoming. 4. Do not teach the typical “stranger danger.” Children do not have the same understanding of “strangers” as adults; the concept is difficult for them to grasp. And, based on what we know about those who harm children, people known to children and/or their families actually present greater danger to children than do “strangers.” 5. Practice what you preach. You may think your children understand your message, but until they can incorporate it into their daily lives, it may not be clearly understood. Find opportunities to practice “what if” scenarios. 6. Teach your children that safety is more important than manners. In other words, it is more important for children to get themselves out of a dangerous situation than it is to be polite. They also need to know that it is okay to tell you what happened, and they won’t be tattletales. Parents should choose opportunities or “teachable” moments to reinforce safety skills. If an incident occurs and your child asks you about it, speak frankly but with reassurance. Explain to your children that you want to discuss the safety rules with them, so that they will know what to do if they are ever confronted with a potentially dangerous situation. Make sure you have “safety nets” in place, so that your children know there is always someone who can help them. Remember that if your children can’t talk to you, then to whom will they talk to? An open line of communication with children is extremely important and we encourage you to take every opportunity to empower them with tools to protect themselves, stated Chief Kevin Hannah.
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