The recent attempt at child abduction in Cedar Rapids this week and the two missing girls from Evansdale have certainly made many Corridor residents think more about child safety. How can we keep our kids safe while continuing to let them play and be kids? How can we prevent child abductions? What is the best way to talk about these events with our kids?
One of the challenges that parents face is teaching kids to be cautious without making them feel fearful or unsafe. Unfortunately there are dangers in the world, but there are things that we can do to decrease the risk that your child is abducted.
There are simple things that you can do such as never leaving your child alone in the car or outside, even for a moment. Supervise them in public places such as the mall, grocery store and Chuck E Cheese. Chose caregivers carefully and make sure your daycare or school has a list of people who are approved to pick up your child (or who should not have access to your child). Avoid dressing your child in clothing with their name on it as children tend to trust strangers who know their name.
One of the most helpful pieces to preventing child abduction is to have details about your child readily available if you need it. If your child is missing, investigators will want to know details such as your child’s age, height, weight, eye color, what they are wearing and a recent photo. One option for collecting this information is the free FBI Child ID app, which provides a convenient place to electronically store photos and vital information about your children so that it’s literally right at hand if you need it.
Make online safety a priority and talk to your kids about using the internet safely. ImOn has created a children’s educational coloring and activity book called “Meet Webby the Internet Safety Cat.” Foundation 2 has free copies available at our Food Pantry. Learn more about internet safety here.
Talk to kids about strangers. Last night I had the discussion with my son- we talked about not taking candy from strangers, running away and screaming “fire” if someone tries to grab him or put him in a vehicle and never going anywhere with a stranger, even if they say they need help finding a lost puppy. He is pretty young, so if your kids are older you can discuss this in more detail.
Should you really even bring up kidnapping with your kids? Yes. In light of the recent abduction of two girls in Evansdale, this is the right time to talk about kidnapping with your kids as this can be used to highlight the importance of staying safe. Kids do not need details which may frighten them. It is important to discuss safety issues with kids in an honest, age appropriate manner, using concrete examples of what to do in different situations. Great age appropriate ways to do this are listed here.
Not sure how to start the conversation? Foundation 2 is here for you 24 hours, 7 days a week. Give our crisis center staff a call at (319) 362-2174. Together we can create a plan to keep our kids safe.