May 25th marks National Missing Children’s Day and, while it is a very somber occasion, it’s also an excellent time to be mindful of the children whose whereabouts remain a mystery and reinforce everything you have taught your own kids about safety both in-person and online.
The day was founded based on six-year-old Etan Patz, who was on his way to school in New York City when he disappeared on May 25, 1979. His father, a professional photographer, shared black-and-white photos of the boy in hopes of finding him and his case garnered international attention. Four years later, President Ronald Reagan declared May 25 National Missing Children’s Day. Here is some information about the day and how you can help your kids remain safe.
Child ID Kit
We take millions of candid snapshots of our kids, and even arrange for family portraits, but many of us fail to take the all-important step of creating a Child ID kit. In the event that a child goes missing, this information is extremely helpful to law enforcement. The kit should include a good quality, up-to-date photo (replaced every six months), descriptive information (name, nicknames, date of birth, gender, hair color, eye color, weight, height, glasses/braces, identifying marks, piercings or tattoos), fingerprints and a DNA sample (old toothbrush, baby teeth, dried blood on a bandage, etc).
Internet and Phone Safety
It was bad enough when we had to worry about kids being approached in-person but now we have to help them stay safe while using technology. A cell phone can be both a blessing and a curse since it can be used as a tool for keeping touch with our kids but it can also be a way for them to communicate with people without our knowledge or consent. Along the same lines, predators can find children online through social media sites and other online hangouts. For this reason, it’s extremely important to talk to your kids about the dangers that can arise from interacting with people they don’t know in these ways. It can also help to utilize parental control features through the phone and internet service providers.
Summer is upon us and families love to use these warm months to head to theme parks. These places are usually pretty crowded and filled with kids which, sadly, can attract child predators. Prior to leaving home, sit down as a family and discuss safety. Consider having your child dress in a bright color so that they are easier to keep see in a crowd. Tell them to stay close and not wander away from you and to bring attention to anyone that makes them uncomfortable. Show them where the Help/Information Center is located in case they get separated from you as well as how to identify the park staff that can provide assistance in an emergency. You can even invest in something like safety temporary tattoos that include your phone number if your younger child gets lost.
At some point, we all must decide when our children are ready to be left alone. It’s about more than just how old they are, they need to possess the maturity to follow instructions, remain relatively calm if something goes wrong and have the ability to problem-solve as needed. Prior to being left on their own, they should be provided with emergency contact information as well as very specific rules to follow while they are alone, like not answering the door if someone knocks. It can also be beneficial to practice situations with your child to help them be prepared for unexpected events.
It’s unfortunate but the reality is that any child who plays on a sports team could be potentially at risk for coming into contact with a child predator. More and more of these stories are appearing in the news which means that it is a good idea to sit down and discuss the ways in which they can protect themselves – particularly if participating in their sport requires them to travel, stay overnight or shower in a group. MissingKids.com has a great tip sheet to promote safety among child athletes.
Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and more are just a few ways that a natural and unexpected disaster could leave you separated from your child. Of course, you will do your best to keep them close in dangerous times but, unfortunately, it’s not always possible to stay together. If there is forewarning of the event, make sure your child has their identification information with them or, if they are very young, you could write their name, parents’ names, address and phone number in marker somewhere on their body. Create a back-up plan, teach children how to best identify emergency responders and reinforce the importance of staying calm and level-headed in a tough situation.
The “Take 25” Pledge
Spending just 25 minutes of your day to talk to your children about safety can protect your child or even save their life. It’s a scary conversation but it cannot and should not be avoided. Visit www.take25.org to make the pledge and use their resources to get started.
There are so many missing children out there and more join them every day. Lend your thoughts to their cause and to the anguish of your families and commit to doing your part to prevent any more children from being lost.