Teach your children safety, awareness

You always have an eye on your children. And when they're not with you, your thoughts are with them. When your kids visit the mall, walk home from school or hang out with friends, you worry about strangers. You want to keep your children safe, yet not make them virtual prisoners in their own home.

Despite screaming headlines about child abductions, chances are great that no one will ever try to kidnap your child. Most child abductions are by family members who have a dispute over the rights to a child, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. More than 200,000 children are involved in such abductions each year. About 100 children are abducted each year by a stranger who keeps the child overnight or holds the child for ransom.

"The great majority of these cases are females between the ages of 12 and 17," says Ben J. Ermini, retired director of the missing children division of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

"Kids have more freedom as they grow a little older and they begin going to dances and the malls," Mr. Ermini says. Abductions are rare, but it's still wise to teach your kids to be safe and aware. "Act out some scenarios with your children in a non-threatening manner, so they gain confidence in knowing what to do."

Abductions from a child's home are even more rare, but experts advise locking your doors and being cautious whether you live in an urban, suburban or rural area.

"And don't panic over media reports," Mr. Ermini says. "More media attention about missing and abducted children is a good thing—it focuses attention."

Seven rules for children

Make sure your child knows these rules:

  1. Don't go anywhere alone.

  2. Always tell an adult where you're going and when you'll return.

  3. Say "no" if you feel uncomfortable.

  4. Don't give directions.

  5. Don't talk with strangers or get into their cars.

  6. Don't help anyone look for a lost dog or cat.

  7. If you get lost in a store, don't wander around looking for your parent. Go at once to a clerk or guard.
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