(KSLA) - We live in a world where the amount of people who prey on young children seem to be growing. That includes child abductors, predators and human traffickers.
We could ignore what’s happening around us, and often times in our own backyard, but that would be careless and put our children in danger.
As parents and guardians we should also rethink the term ‘stranger danger’ especially when most kids are taken by a family member or an acquaintance.
Avoiding strangers will not help if the abductor is a family member, neighbor, or family acquaintance", according to Kid Smartz.
Here are a few tips:
- Don’t say: Never talk to strangers. Say: You should not approach just anyone. If you need help, look for a uniformed police officer a parent with children.
- Don’t say: Stay away from people you don’t know. Say: It’s important for you to get my permission before going anywhere with anyone.
- Don’t say: You can tell someone is bad just by looking at them. Say: Pay attention to what people do. Tell me right away if anyone asks you to keep a secret, makes you feel uncomfortable, or tries to get you to go with them.
- In addition, use role-playing scenarios to help your children practice their abduction prevention skills.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
- Nearly 800,000 children are reported missing each year, that’s more than 2,000 a day.
- More than 200,000 children are kidnapped each year by family members.
- More than 58,000 are abducted by non-family members.
- Many others are runaways or pushed out of the home by parents.
- 1 in 6 runaways will likely become a victim to human trafficking
- In Northwest Louisiana, at least one child, age 13-14, is rescued from human trafficking every month.
In our latest KSLA Cafe’Conversation, Chris Cantrell, Supervisory Senior Resident Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Shreveport, joins Adria Goins and Domonique Benn to talk about keeping your child safe.
Cantrell brought up some important tips every parent or guardian should know:
1. Most child abductions are by known people
Most parents may remember the term ‘stranger danger', however, abductions by strangers only account for about 100 cases per year. “It’s more family, if you take the parental abductions out, then it’s going to be acquaintances, neighbors, friends of the family — that’s the larger number of those that are abducted.”
2. Parents MUST monitor their child’s internet time, downloaded apps on mobile devices
The most common age group of abducted children are girls and young women between the ages of 12 and 17. However, that doesn’t just include girls. “In that age group, 12 to 17, it could be an abduction but it also could be trafficking. That’s a crucial age. What happens with social media and the apps is that it becomes a perfect opportunity to become grooming.”
3. Staying aware of surroundings
As children grow into teens and young adults - parents need to instill situational awareness. Reminders of not getting into strangers’ cars are common, but also being aware of what’s going on around them is crucial. “I pass a couple of bus stops on my way to work and I see tweens and teenagers and they’ve got headphones on and they’re on the phone — there’s zero situational awareness and attention.”
4. Limit personal information on social media, public
Parents can do their part in protecting their children in small ways — such as limiting simple information. “You see the van or the truck and it’s got the stick figures with ‘mom, dad, Jack, Jill’ and all the siblings, and you follow them to the park and they say ‘Hey, your mom Jill said’ 'cause they learned all that information from your car, sa ‘you can come with me, your dad Jack, we’re going to link up with them later,’ they can learn that from the back of your car,” Cantrell said. Telling your children not to post their location or where they live on social media will also protect them.
5. Teaching children to fight back
Always tell children that if they are grabbed by someone and in danger, they need to fight back. “Fight, scream, make a scene,” Cantrell said when asked. "They may threaten them, say they’ll hurt their dad whatever maybe — It’s going to happen. You need to fight, make a scene, lay down do the proverbial dying cockroach. If you’re on a bike, grab the bike! Sometimes you see the scenarios where the child goes — but make it hard.
When family members abduct:
According to NCMEC, “family abductions happen when relatives break legal custody agreements by keeping kids from their legal guardians.” An abduction may be more likely to occur if a parent has:
- Threatened to abduct or previously abducted the child
- No strong ties to the child's home state, but ties to friends and family living in another state/country
- A history of marital issues
- A history of domestic violence or child abuse
- Is engaged in planning activities such as quitting a job, selling a home, closing accounts, hiding or destroying documents, purchasing travel tickets for your child, altering their appearance, or applying for renewed or duplicate documents for the child such as; new passports or visas, birth certificates, school or medical records
There are several resources available for parents when it comes to your child’s safety:
- Report child trafficking to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to the cybertip line here
- If you think you have seen a missing child, contact the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children 24-hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-THE-LOST
- National Human Trafficking Hotline is available 24 hours, 7 days a week. SMS: 233733 (Text “HELP” or “INFO”) or call 1-888-373-7888
- Tips for preventing child abductions here
- Keep a virtual eye on your kids, even when you’re far away. 10 best GPS trackers for kids here
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