There is no greater fear for a parent, grandparent or any person responsible for a beloved child’s welfare, than losing that child in a public place. It’s for this reason most of us still have the words ‘don’t talk to strangers’ still echoing around our memory chambers, so often did our parents remind us not to accept sweets or car rides from people we didn’t recognize.
But there may be two big problems with this kind of advice: first, young kids don’t heed the advice, and second, the advice doesn’t even apply to the vast majority of recorded abductions anyway. The first point has been brilliantly demonstrated in a recent viral video from Joey Saladino. Watch how he proves to shocked mothers that their words of warning have no practical effect on their young darlings.
However, more shocking than this display of delicate innocence is the claim that telling young children to avoid strangers does nothing to address the facts of most child abductions. The Washington Post has estimated that abductions perpetrated by strangers only account for a hundredth of 1% from all the cases of missing children.
So, the good news is that child abductions by wicked strangers are extremely rare. That is partly why we continue to be even more shocked by these kinds of crimes than we are by more common atrocities that we can see on the televised news. In fact, all abductions of children may be much rarer than Saladino states, with perhaps 115 per year occurring in America.
It should be added that the children in Saladino’s experiment were all extremely young and closely watched by their mothers. There is no indication here that older children whom parents don’t spend all their time watching would be as susceptible to the coaxes of a mysteriously nice stranger.
However, even a slight risk is enough to make most of us in permanent or temporary custody of a child want to take the best precautions possible. And here are 6 things you can do to prevent such a calamity.
Some useful habits to adopt to help prevent child abductions
• Write your phone number on the child's wrists and cover up with a liquid band-aid.
• Take a photo of the child on your phone every morning, to show police what they were wearing etc.
• If possible, have the child memorize your number.
• Show your child where any staff are located if you are at an event or a public place.
• Decide what your plan will be if you do get separated.
• Draw a map of your local area with your child. This activity can raise their awareness of what places are safe for them.
The bad news, then, is that most cases of child abductions, like much violent crime, are perpetrated by those who are known to the child. So, just as we try to create the best relationships for ourselves, and thus avoid the kind of violence that unfortunately does exist between people by forging the best family and community bonds, we are able to limit the risk of people within our child’s circle harming them.
This is a reminder that, if you have a good family life in a good community, then you are already doing the best that can be done to prevent your grandchildren or children from suffering.