Reports of recent abductions and molestations has parents across America extremely concerned about how to protect their children. Debra Holtzman, an internationally recognized child safety and health expert and author of the book, The Safe Baby: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety (Sentient Publications, 2005) says, "There are some simple things that you can do beforehand to protect your children."
Here are Debra Holtzman's recommendations:
1. Have a family password.
Teach your child that they can't go anywhere with anyone (even a relative) without your parent's permission, unless the person coming for you knows the family password. Practice situations so that the child understands the kinds of circumstances in which a person who doesn't know the password might be persuasive. Even if someone tells the child she must come along because her parent is in the hospital, she should ask for the family password. Make sure your child has not told anyone your password.
2. Don't advertise your child's name to strangers.
Don't put your child's name on the outside of clothing or possessions.
3. Make sure that your children know their first and last name, complete address, including city and state, phone number, including area code.
For younger children, start with simpler information: they should at least know the first digits of your address, street name, and color of your home. Make sure children know how to contact you at all times. Children must also know how to dial 911 or 0 for emergencies, and know how to make a collect call.
4. Teach your child the tricks abductors may use.
Some lines an abductor might use: I'm lost. Can you tell me how to get to...? I've lost my puppy. Will you help me find him? Teach your children that adults should not be asking for help from a child.
5. Teach your child when to scream and make a scene. If someone tries to pull a child into a car or building for example, that's when he should scream and make a scene.
6. In public places, never let a small child out of your sight.
Teach children not to run, walk or even hide from parents. Provide children with instructions of what to if they get separated from you. Point out and identify specific people the child can ask for help. In a grocery store, the person wearing the store uniform (point out the color). In the mall, a police officer or security officer. Also, teach them that they can ask a mom with a child for help as well. Establish a central meeting place for older children, such as an information desk in the mall.
7. Teach your child to use the buddy system.
Your child should always play, walk and travel with a buddy. Especially do not allow your child to go alone to video arcades, public rest rooms, parks, malls, or movie theaters.
8. Teach your children to trust their instincts.
If something or someone doesn't look or seem quite right, it's always best to avoid that situation or person. Walk away.
9. Plan safe walk routes to all places your child will be walking.
Instruct him to always walk on the main sidewalks and not take shortcuts through woods or empty lots. Always walk on the sidewalk in the direction facing traffic so that a vehicle can't approach undetected from behind. Provide her with a whistle to blow if she is in danger. Always call the school if your child will be absent. Make sure the school knows how to contact you if he does not show up. Teach your child to never approach a car or get into a vehicle without your permission. Teach them to never Hitchhike.
10. Always accompany your child going door to door to sell items or collect money–even in your own neighborhood, where you think you know everyone.
11. Teach your child to always ask permission before going anywhere with anyone.
(Friends and relatives included.) Ask even if it is to run next door for just a second to see the new puppy.
12. Protect your home from intruders. Invest in a home security system. At the very least, install audible alarms or tones on the doors and windows, which lets you know when someone enters or leaves your home. Get a dog with a yappy bark which can scare away intruders. Consult a veterinarian regarding the best dog for your family.
13. Always supervise younger children, especially while they play outdoors.
Invest in a comfortable lounge chair to use for these occasions.
14. Always know where your child is and know when she will return.
Know the parents of all your children's friends and keep their phone numbers and addresses on hand.
15. As an additional layer of protection, parents should consider purchasing a child monitoring device (such as a watch) which can be a very valuable tool in quickly locating a missing child.
16. Keep important information on hand: a current color photo (update every six months); up-to date dental and medical records, a videotape of the child, a complete description of the child, fingerprints, and a DNA kit.
17. Teach your child what parts of the body are private--those covered by the bathing suit. (Except for the pediatrician, with a parent in the room, or a parent or caregiver washing them in the bath or wiping them on the potty, no one should touch them in those areas.)
18. Teach your child to tell a trusted adult immediately if anyone, even a teacher or close relative, touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.
19. Teach your child to tell a parent if any adult asks them to keep a secret.
20. Never berate your child in public when the child avoids someone they feel bad about. (Explore the subject with your child quietly, later.)