The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children offers these eight safety tips for children:
1. I always check first with my parents or the person in charge before I go anywhere or get into a car, even with someone I know.
2. I always check first with my parents or a trusted adult before I accept anything from anyone, even from someone I know.
3. I always take a friend with me when I go places or play outside.
4. I know my name, address, telephone number, and my parents' names.
5. I say no LOUDLY if someone tries to touch me or treat me in a way that makes me feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused.
6. I know that I can tell my parents or a trusted adult if I feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused.
7. It's OK to say no, and I know that there will always be someone who can help me.
8. I am strong, smart, and have the right to be safe.As a parent of three young daughters, I make it a point to regularly go over these tips and stress how important it is to communicate any fear they may face. Of course I do not want them walking through life in a constant state of anxiety, but I also do not want them to be "easy targets" for someone who may want to harm them. They all know that their best moment for help is the moment something is happening. They are being taught that a stranger is not to be believed; that their safety is better insured if they scare the stranger.
Talk to your children. Whatever their age, communicate to them that NOISE is their best defense. And as you tuck your child into bed tonight, checking the windows, checking the doors, know that you have armed them with a tool to combat fear and help insure that their, and your, sweet dreams are not turned into nightmares.
HELPFUL AGE-APPROPRIATE TIPS
The help you can offer a young child is somewhat different from what is useful for an older child. Here are some suggestions:
Young Children Should:
~ Never say they are alone if they answer the phone: they can offer to take a message or say their parents will phone back.
~ Never answer the door if they are alone.
~ Not invite anyone in the house without the permission of a parent or babysitter.
~ Not go into people's houses without letting anyone know where they are.
~ NEVER get into anyone's car without permission.
~ Do not take candy or other gifts from strangers or anyone else without asking a parent first.
~ NEVER play in deserted buildings or isolated areas.
~ Scream and scatter books and belongings if they are forced towards a building or car.
~ Move away from a car that pulls up beside them if they do not know the driver.
~ Be taught that it's all right to say 'no' to an adult if the person wants them to do something you've taught them is wrong.
~ Know that no one has the right to touch any part of their bodies that a bathing suit would cover.
~ Tell you, school authorities or a police officer about anyone who exposes private parts.
~ Tell you if someone has asked them to keep a secret from you.
~ Go to the nearest cashier if lost or separated from you in a store or mall.
Older Children/Teens Should:
~ Tell you where they are at all times or leave a written or recorded message at home.
~ Never hitchhike.
~ Avoid shortcuts through empty parks, fields, alleys.
~ Run home or go to the nearest public place and yell for help if they are being followed.
~ Learn to recognize suspicious behavior and remember a description of the person or vehicle to give you or the police. Write the plate number in the dirt or snow if nothing else is available.
~ If attacked for money, jewelry, or clothing, give it up rather than risk injury.
~ Feel that they can talk to you and call you to pick them up at any time, any place.
~ Avoid clothing and toys with your child's name on it. A child is less likely to fear someone who knows his/her name.
~ Check all potential babysitters and older friends of your child. NEVER leave your child alone in a public place, stroller or car. Not even for a minute.
~ Always accompany young children to the bathroom in a public place and advise them never to play in or around the area.
~ Always accompany your child on door-to-door activities, i.e. Hallowe'en, school fundraising campaigns, etc.
~ Point out safe houses or homes with the Block Parent sign where children can go if they are in trouble.
~ Create an environment in which the child feels free to talk to you. Let him/her know that you are interested and sensitive to their fears.
~ Teach them that the police are their friends and that they can rely on them if they are in trouble.
~ Keep an up-to-date color photograph of your child, a medical and dental history, and have your child fingerprinted.