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Chapter Twelve: Steps to Protecting Your Children from Abduction and Kidnapping
Danger can lurk anywhere and everywhere a child may go. Many everyday dangers are overlooked, but you can train yourself to be aware of them and take the necessary steps to protect your child at all times.
Child abduction can happen anywhere, at any time. It is because of this that it is essential to educate and warn your child of the dangers of abduction surrounding them at home, at school, at the park, and even online. Getting an early start on these safety measures can make all the difference in having your children potentially lured away by would-be abductors.
Never shy away from providing your children with hard and accurate statistics and potential real-life situations. It is okay to leave out the potentially traumatizing details, but teaching your children from a young age about the actual dangers in their lives is essential in order to protect their safety and well-being. In addition to teaching them what abduction and kidnapping is and who is capable of doing it, it also necessary to teach your children what to do if they are ever placed in such a predicament.
How to protect children your child against abduction
First and foremost, let your child know they should alert an adult if they suspect any suspicious behavior, or if they feel as if an adult is acting inappropriately towards them. Children, and especially teenagers, should be able to identify suspicious behavior by those around them if they have gotten the proper education. As most abductions are committed by people the child is familiar with, spotting inconsistencies in their behavior and alerting authorities is essential to child safety. Teach your child how to notice potential signs of danger in someone’s behavior rather than just in how someone looks. Children and adults alike often believe and portray abductors as scary-looking older men that are easy to point out and stand out from the crowd. Emphasizing that these horrible acts may be done by those who are close to them can drive home the point of being cautious and aware of anyone acting strangely around them, not necessarily anyone who looks "creepy."
As with any danger to your child, keeping an open and nonjudgmental dialogue with them can always help you gain as much information as you can to keep them safe. This way your children can learn to trust you and will want to inform you about their lives at all times. Trust is a big part of why many children get kidnapped or run away from home. If a child does not have a trusting background at home, they become more vulnerable to getting lured into danger by strangers, because they may not have the support from their families that they need. Kidnappers and child abductors, strangers and family members alike, sense a child’s vulnerability and make them their number one targets most of the time.
Teaching your child who to trust and what types of people not to trust is essential in helping them protect themselves. Many stranger kidnappings occur when kidnappers lure children into their cars or their reach by telling them they have candy, a lost puppy, or need help with directions. Teach them to be wary of unknown cars that pull up beside them and not to speak to anyone in the cars they do not know, no matter how lost or confused they look. Tell your child to run away and contact an adult immediately if anyone comes up to them asking for help or offers them candy or other goodies that can lure them in. Educate them on what type of information is okay to share and what isn’t appropriate to share if confronted with questions from someone they do not know. Tell your children that it is never okay to get into someone’s car that they don’t know for any reason, even if that person says their parents sent them to pick them up. Make a pact that goes through the steps of what to do if someone other than you were to ever pick your child up from school or extracurricular activity. Usually, this means telling your children beforehand who is going to be picking them up, why, and when and where to meet them. If, and only if, these measures are taken, in addition to previous knowledge of not getting into any cars with strangers, can children begin to protect themselves.
Teaching your child to run away and/or contact an adult if they feel threatened by a stranger or someone they know is a good starting tip, but there are many more. It is important to teach your child as many tips as possible for them to protect themselves if ever confronted with a kidnapper at school, at the park, or at the mall. Children must know that it is appropriate to run and scream if they are in trouble. Tell them that if they are in a situation where they are in danger, they don’t have to act normally and they must try and take any measure to alert anyone around them so that they can get help.
Many children are scared or simply trust the predator they are with, but tell your child that if any stranger or even someone they know is taking them away and you didn’t tell them about it beforehand, they must act out and show people they are in trouble. Children need to make a scene wherever they are to get other people’s attention. If they are at school and are getting lured into a car, they need to notice this right away (from talks you’ve had with them before) and scream and run away and tell a teacher. If they are at the park, they need to scream and run away as well, or approach a mother with a child and tell her what happened.
If they are at the mall, or in a store, they need to knock anything they can off of the shelves to get the attention of an adult or manager who can help. If a child gets lost in the store or in the mall, with or without a predator following them or trying to lure them in, they should always contact a cashier, manager, or the nearest security guard. It is important to teach them to never approach a shopper they do not know, and to never go into the parking lot as a safe haven. You can make an agreement with your child before going into the mall as well, establishing a meeting place if anything does happen. Usually this meeting place is either at a security desk, or a mall information kiosk with working adults behind them. The bottom line is to always teach your child to go to a person in uniform, and never to a stranger.
When dressing children for school, or in general, avoid clothing or key chains with your child’s name on them. If a child hears their name called it is easy for them to let their guard down and believe that the person calling them is someone they know. Wearing items of clothing that make their names easily known makes children more vulnerable to kidnappers. Although a high precautionary measure, getting your child a passport can help in the extreme case that someone tries to smuggle them into a different country to get away. This document can help you and authorities bring your child home faster. It’s also recommended to have ID-like photos taken of your kids every six months. Getting them fingerprinted also helps the police department and the public expedite a missing child process.
While these measures are essential in preventing any time of day kidnappings and abductions, there are many other tips for online safety to prevent kidnappings. According to AVG, an antivirus and adolescent online safety group, "youth is wholly experimental, and never was that more true than today. Perhaps no generation in history has ever had more to teach their elders. But it’s still a process of trial and error – both for parents and kids. So how do we get the balance right, especially when it comes to technology?"
How to Protect Children Online
Modern technology is beneficial for both kids and adults, but it can also be very dangerous. Children and teens are attached to their phones and computers, and who they communicate with and what they communicate about is often kept a secret from anyone else, especially parents. This raises a lot of issues for parents because there is a constant need to educate their children about online safety and we must constantly think of new ways to protect children from easily accessible, unsafe sites. First and foremost, the best thing that parents can do to help prevent abductions from online predators is to stay informed.
These days, parents must be adaptable and remain up-to-date on new technologies. By staying up-to-date on the threats your children may encounter online, you can help prevent them from getting in dangerous situations by talking to them beforehand. With the right knowledge, parents can establish ground rules for online web surfing, email, and instant messaging. The chances of your child being more web savvy than you are high, so if you take the time to get informed on the latest trends and social media sites, you can talk to your child or teen about the dangers and risks of each, and how online predators can still lure them in and stage kidnappings. It is for this reason that staying informed and reading up on parental blockers and safe websites is important in protecting your child even when you are not there.
It is very easy to find parental blockers for social media sites, gaming websites, and even for your child’s Smartphone or tablet. There are many helpful sites and tools that can help filter your child’s online experience. One of these tools is Net Nanny, and it’s included with a Kids Live Safe membership. You can use Google to set up alerts if your child’s name ever gets mentioned online.
In addition to installing online blockers, parents should set up the family computer in a neutral, common room in the house that is open to everyone. This reduces the chances of your child hiding something that they know they would get in trouble for, like communicating with a predator and/or visiting sites they know they shouldn’t be.
Last, but most definitely not least, your children take you as their role model. If they see you posting pictures on social media sites of yourself, or even of them, they will take it as it being okay to post their own pictures and share information. Parents need to not only educate their children on the dangers of sharing potentially harmful information, but also practice the methods they teach their children. Otherwise, children will follow in their parents’ footsteps and unknowingly expose themselves to predators and other Internet dangers.
How to protect children in their own neighborhood
When people are in their own homes, most fears tend to just float away. But, it is still important to be vigilant and look for predators in the neighborhood. By subscribing to Kids Live Safe, parents can look for registered sex offenders in their area and monitor their child’s activities based on this information. After school and on weekends, children like to play sports or other activities in the front yard of a home or in the backyard. While parents and kids may think nothing of it, as they are still on home property, this behavior can be potentially dangerous! This is especially true for children playing in the front yard, as a predator can simply drive up and take with no questions asked, or lure them into their car and drive away with no evidence of their existence. By teaching your children the safety measures of what to do in these types of situations, which are similar to stranger kidnappings in school, children can protect themselves.
The best way to protect your child from getting abducted from home is having you or another trusted adult supervise them when they are outside. This not only prevents kidnappers from driving up to the house altogether, but can also help catch the person if they do still manage to kidnap your child. Something as minimal as a car size and color can greatly help police nab the suspect. This idea applies to watching your kids while at the park, or in any other open space that is close to a street. Parks are vulnerable to strangers who can drive by and kidnap children.
In all, educating your children and being vigilant about their activities and the behaviors of others is how we can prevent abductions and kidnappings. Keep an eye out for suspicious behaviors of those close to you and your child, as those people are the most likely to abduct your child. Strangers are less likely to take your child, even though that is the most common fear. Although it is more unlikely, it is still a possibility that strangers kidnap children, and teaching your children preventative measures as well as what to do if placed in that situation is always a good idea and will never do any harm, but only good. Teaching your children to run away and scream if they feel they are being lured, or simply being with your child and watching over them when outside can stop would-be kidnappers from abducting your child. With the right education and safety measures, children can live happy and safe lives.