How to keep your children safe in a society of predators

by cherylone

Every 40 seconds a child goes missing. More than 800,000 are reported missing each year. Many of those children do not survive their abductions.

Read on to find out how you can keep your children safe. As a society, we hope to be intelligent and forward thinking; however, when it comes to our children we need to be more safety and protective thinking. Hundreds of children are being stolen and raped, tortured, and killed by predators every day.

Image by Nemo and can be found on Pixabay-

Your children are your world

They have the need to exercise and they have the need for fresh air, however, we can no longer safely send our children out to play and still keep them safe.  We can’t even let them walk home from school without escort.  In fact, there are now fears because children are being snatched from, or killed in, their own bedrooms.  As parents, we all want our children to be safe, to keep their belongings safe, and to ensure they don’t have an ‘unusually strong fear’ of the outside world.  In this day and age, that is so very hard to do. 

Children around the world

Children Holding Hands Around Globe

Marking your child's belongings

When we purchase expensive things for our children, such as name brand boots, or character backpacks, our first instinct is to put their name on them so no one else can claim them.  However, this practice can be very dangerous, especially if the item will be sitting somewhere without the child for any length of time, or if the name is in an obvious area.  Predators will look for the name on things and then approach the child using their name.  The child, believing the person is not a stranger because they know their name, will go with them.  Try to mark items in inconspicuous areas such as electronics could be marked inside the battery box.  Backpacks could be marked on the inside rather than the outside.  Clothes could be marked on the inside tag with a code rather than the child’s name; especially coats, hats, and mittens.  Example of a good code is the parent’s initials (or mother’s maiden initials) and the child’s age. 

When marking your child's items, be sure to use a water-proof permanent marker so the information can't be changed or removed, but be careful that the markings don't 'leak' through any of the material so that they can be seen.

 For more information on things you can do to protect your children check out the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children 

Make children aware of the dangers by creating a code word for them to use

Children need to be aware of the dangers out there; and they need to know what to do in case of an emergency.  To help keep them safe, come up with (create is perhaps a better word) an unusual code word.  Something that no one can figure out (examples you shouldn’t use are the name of their pet dog or their grandmother’s last name).  For best results, create a name using several different things--for example:  crayons and pens could be made into a code word of “craypen”. 

Now, teach this code word to your children and practice it with them every day before they leave the house.  When anyone approaches them, that person (and this is the tricky part) must have the code word or the child is not to go with them.  Even if that person is a close friend or a relative, if they do not have the code word, then the child is not to go with them.  This means that you will have to make sure family and friends know that they cannot pick up your child without this code word; AND you will not tell anyone, not even family, what this code word is unless they have to pick up your child.  Once a code word is used, change it immediately.  This code word is the best way to teach your children to stay safe.  How many children have been taken and raped and/or killed by people they knew and trusted?  This code word, known only to you and your children, will help to keep them safe.

Next, teach your children that if the code word is not used (no matter who is trying to get them) they should not go and if the person insists, then the child is to VERY LOUDLY refuse.  If that doesn’t work, then they are to cry out for help loudly and continuously until the person leaves and/or help arrives.  The same goes for anyone who might try to grab them unexpectedly; the child is to scream for help loudly and continuously.  This is the one time the child is allowed to get as loud as they want; in fact they are strongly encouraged to do so. 

Once these rules have been established, practice with your child so they get used to the process.  Have a friend help by approaching and asking them to go with them.  Be sure the friend does not have the correct code word and see what the children do.  Coach them over and over until it becomes habit. 

Remember, make the code word unusual so it can’t be guessed, and make sure only you and your children know what the word is.  Practice the word every day before they leave the house so they will remember what it is.  And then, when something comes up and you have to have someone else pick up the kids, GIVE the person the code word and make sure they understand that it is imperative that they use it.  Finally, remember to change the code word once it has been used.

For information on keeping your child safe outside of the home go to MyChildSafety.Net

Even in the home, precautions should be taken, for instance use of the phone

When the phone rings, if you let the children answer it for you, have them answer professionally with the family name and the word ‘residence’ and a polite request for the reason they called such as “Jones Residence, how can I help you?”  Make sure that the children NEVER tell a caller that they are alone.  If they are alone, they should state that their parent is in the shower and can’t come to the phone right now, or they should say their parent is busy but they can take a message.  By not telling anyone that they are alone, they reduce the risk that a predator is calling for that very reason.

The house phone is supposed to be a life-line for your children if anything goes wrong, but it can be used against them.  Instruct your children that they are NEVER to tell anyone (friends and family included) that they are alone or will be alone.  The only exception to that is if they call 911 or the police because of an emergency, it is OK to tell the operator that they are alone because that will speed help to them faster.  Make sure your children know how to call for help as soon as they are old enough to pick up the phone.  This is imperative, because we never know when an emergency will arise and it is better to be prepared.

For information on other home safety issues:

The cell phone can also be a source of danger

If your child has a cell phone, they need to understand some basic rules for safety.  First, they shouldn’t answer the phone if the number that comes up is one they don’t know.  Second, they should only use their phone for the purpose it was given (for example, you give your child a cell because they will be playing football all season and you need to know when to drop off and pick up them and their gear).  They shouldn’t be calling buddies and flaunting the receipt of the phone.  They also shouldn’t be calling numbers at random (for example they see an ad for a new gadget on the TV and it gives an 800 number to call, your child SHOULD NOT be calling that number). Teach your children how to use the phone correctly and use a prepaid phone so their calling abilities are limited.

Check out this site for more cell phone safety.

eBay has several prepaid phones to choose from

Keeping children safe from strangers while in the home

Ensure that the door to the house is locked at all times.  If someone knocks, the young child should never answer it (try keeping a dead bolt that is too high for the little ones to reach).  Older children should ask who it is or use the peep hole (a peep hole is best because then they can see for themselves who it is).  Children should never open a door for someone they do not know and only for those they do know when you are standing there.  This ensures that they aren’t grabbed before you can reach the door to protect them. 

Never leave windows open and/or unlocked without you being present.  If the child is in a room and you can’t hear them (for example if they are playing in their room and it is on the other side of the house from where you are) you should ensure that all of the windows in that area of the house (including upstairs) are closed and locked or that the windows have bars to keep people from climbing through.  The bars are easy to obtain from a hardware store and are attached on the inside so they can’t be removed.  Ensure that the child does not open the window to allow anyone (no matter who they are) into the room and ensure that the doors to the house are locked including basement, and garage doors which are often overlooked. If you do not have a locking window, or if the lock is broken, try wedging strong pieces of wood into both sections to keep the windows from being opened.

Teach your children that the items in the home (and on their person) are private and shouldn't be bragged about with others to prevent them from becoming targets for robbery.  Also, the house may become a target if they tell others how much 'stuff' the family owns.

Keys to the house are scary things especially if they are clearly marked as such.  If you feel your child is old enough to have a house key, then they should be following these rules for safety.  First, the key is to be kept in a safe place and shown to no one.  None of his/her friends are to know that they have the house key.  The house key is never to be marked as such.  And the child should never remove the key except to unlock the door of the house.  (Now here comes the hard part--the child should NEVER let anyone into the house with them unless it has been arranged with you ahead of time.)  If someone tries to get in with them, they should immediately go to a neighbor for help rather than trying to unlock the door and race inside. 

For more information, go to Safety Rules for Children who stay alone

When you go to large fairs or gatherings, you should take a few steps to keep everyone safe

First, try to have each member of the family wear something similar--for instance you could all wear bright red hats.  The reason you do this is so you can easily find them at a distance.  Next, children should never wander off alone.  Try to set up a buddy system so that if a child goes off to see something there is always someone with them, and make sure they know who their buddy is and that they can’t leave without them. 

Like Disney World shown here

Disney World, Orlando, Florida, USA

Next, don’t give your children a lot of money.  Have them come to you for the things they wish so that they aren’t robbed or targeted.  Also, keep your own money safe by putting it in separate areas so no one really knows how much money you have when you pay for something.  Examples would be keep $50 in your wallet, $50 in your jacket zipper pocket, $50 in your backpack, $50 in your shoe, however you want to do it. 

Bring a large bag with you, one for each member.  And have them put their purchases in their own bag.  This helps to keep things together and helps everyone to be able to keep an eye on the purchases.  Once the bags are half full, the family should return to the car and secure the purchases in the trunk before continuing on with their now empty bags.

Check out this site for safety when traveling

Medicines and drugs are a serious issue in today's society

Young teens and even younger children are experimenting and trying out their parents drugs without them even being aware of it.  They often talk about the different medications and such that are kept in the house with friends.  So how can we protect these things without building a vault?  We can easily protect these things by following two basic rules.  One, keep prescription medications locked in a lock box of some type.  Two, keep all medications and supplements where you can see and reach them but the children cannot.  That means they could be in your closet on a high shelf, or they could be in the kitchen on the top of the cabinets.  Take them down once a week and fill a pill dispenser with what you need to take for the week and secure the rest.  Keep the dispenser in a secure place like your purse, briefcase, or bed table.  Check them when you take them to make sure things aren’t missing.  This reduces the amount that the children may have access to and helps you keep track of what is there.  Also, don’t teach the children how to call in a refill for your prescription and never have them pick one up for you (unless they are a trusted adult, of course). 

Follow this link to the poison control center.

This leads me to money and debit/credit cards

Children are so susceptible today that carrying around money can lead them into big trouble; however, so can money cards.  If you need to have money removed from your account, NEVER give your pin and card to your child.  Children remember these things and then the next time they need money, well they already know the pin and they know where you keep the card, sooooo---don’t give them the opportunity.  Once they know the pin and the location of the card and how to use an ATM they become targets for would-be predators that are not only looking for children, but they are looking for easy money as well.  (The child tells friends "I was a big kid and got money for my mother" and someone overhears it that shouldn't----)  If you must give your child a debit card, set up a separate account just for them and make sure there is only a small amount in the account. 

Then ensure that the child never uses the card  unless you have specifically instructed them to do so, for instance they may have to use it to buy school lunch, but they shouldn’t be going to an ATM after school with all their friends to show them how easy it is for them to get money. 

Go to the National Child Safety Foundation for more information on keeping your child safe.

Teach your children not to give out any personal family information

Start early because it is natural for young children to announce their personal information to strangers once they have learned it because they want to show how smart they are.  The things that shouldn’t be discussed or told to anyone outside of the immediate family are:  phone numbers including all cell phones; address including any PO Box numbers; house location (we’re the first green house on the block); type of car the family has; layout of the house itself (my bedroom is in the back where all the trees grow really big); whether mom and dad both work and when they work; whether they are going to be alone for any length of time; what type of pets they have along with their numbers and their names; any passwords or code words they have been taught; where things are located (my daddy keeps all his twenty hundred guns in the garage right behind where he parks the car, you should see them all.); expensive items such as diamond rings; their full name (my name is Jessie Jonathon Jenkins the third and I’m named after my daddy); even simple things like where their grandparents live.  It sounds strange to keep your children from talking about these things, but if they tell a friend and a non-friend is listening…..I don’t think I have to explain the rest.

Check here for further information on those who would prey on your children.

Teach your children not to approach any animals whether it is leashed or loose without your presence and permission

Predators often use cute puppies and kittens to lure children to them.  Also, dogs that are leashed could present another problem as they may be mean or not like children.  Children should never walk up to any animal without you present and they should never just reach out to the animal.  Always make sure the owner gives permission and then have the child offer their hand for the animal to smell.  If the animal backs away or growls, they should remove their hand and not try to touch the animal.  Animals also carry many diseases especially if they are outside animals.  I know how heart-rending it is to see a cute little baby kitty sitting in the rain, but your child should never approach them especially when they are alone.  If it bothers them, and it probably will, then they should tell a trusted adult about it.

For more information on keeping your children safe around animals, go to Animal Safety for Kids.

Walking safety

Instruct your children to walk along the inside edge of the sidewalk as far away from the road as they can.  Predators will often drive by and snatch the child right off the sidewalk and just keep driving.  If the children aren’t close to the road, this trick is difficult at best and impossible at most.  Also, have children who need to walk on the road to stay in groups and as close to the side as possible.  If a car comes, they should be aware of it because often the predator is counting on surprise when they try to take a child this way.  Also, teach them the rules of traffic.  When walking down the road, they should be facing on-coming traffic as they walk.  This means that when the traffic is on the right heading north, then the child should be on the right heading south.  That way they can see cars approaching them. 

 For more information you can go to Street Safety.

There are so many more ways to keep your children safe

Before it is too late, talk to your children; don't let them become victims.  Search for information on keeping your children safe, I have included links here, but there are many more.  Make sure they know what to do if they are in trouble, and make sure they know where they can go to get help (ie police, or a trusted neighbor).  Make sure they know the rules and keep themselves, their family and their friends safe.  Ensure that they know why you have these rules (often children will follow them more rapidly if they understand why you are enforcing them).  And take the time to practice the rules every day.  Children learn by example; and what better way is there to teach our children how to be be safe than by showing them we are keeping ourselves safe? 

One last thing, if you give your child a large whistle on a chain and have them keep it around their neck under their clothing, they have a perfect defense should someone grab them.  All they have to do is grab the whistle and blow with all their might.  Make sure they keep blowing until help arrives. 

eBay has whistles

Updated: 10/07/2012, cherylone
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cherylone on 09/03/2012

You are right, we do, but if we show them we are following the practices as well, they are often more inclined to pay attention. thanks for the great comments.

BrendaReeves on 09/02/2012

Cheryl, This is an excellent article. I am planning a similar one after visiting my grandchildren recently and seeing some safety issues I'm concerned about. Kids are very trusting by nature. Unfortunately, we have to instill fear in them.

cherylone on 08/19/2012

I got your message and appreciate you getting the info to me so fast. How right you are that the safety message needs to come from more than just us. Thank you so much for the help.

katiem2 on 08/19/2012

I know of this really great safety cd I used for my kids. It's really important you provide them with safety messages from someone or source other than you. Reinforcement! I'll send you a message about it. :)K

cherylone on 06/26/2012

katiem2, thanks for the tweet, I appreciate it. The more kids we can keep safe, the better.

katiem2 on 06/26/2012

Very helpful tips on keeping our children safe from predators. I'm tweeting this now. Thanks :)K

cherylone on 05/05/2012

My kids are afraid because they need to be, however, I have used these techniques in some of the most dangerous areas that we lived in and my children remainded safe. You don't have to use them all, just the ones you need. And, I fear, building fear in your children may be the only way to keep them safe in such a dangerous society. I agree it may be too much, I was just trying to ensure I covered all the bases. Thank you for stopping by and adding your thoughts.

Susi on 05/04/2012

Is there not enough fear in the world already? My goodness, I know you think you are helping people be safe but really you are just feeding the fear. How do you do all this without feeding fear to your kids?

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