Child Safety Tips

Child safety tips to safeguard against molesters and kidnapping.

A schoolgirl kidnapped in Vienna, Austria spent 8 years caged underground. Even in such a low-crime country, predators stalk its children. Although most missing children turn out to be runaways who soon return home, or children abducted by a parent in a messy divorce, a few each year disappear like Natascha Kampusch did as a 10-year-old girl . She was walking to school when Wolfgang Priklopil jumped out of a minivan, grabbed her, and shoved her into the back. He kept her as his sex slave in a tiny caged pit dug into the floor of his garage. As an 18-year-old, she managed to escape when he was distracted.

Though such long-term kidnappings are rare, parents – and their kids – need to safeguard against any kidnapping.

Child safety tips of the past always warned children to beware of strangers. But now we learn the child usually knows the kidnapper. Besides, to a child, a stranger quickly becomes an acquaintance – once the child learns his name, he’s no longer a stranger. See Stranger Danger vs Stranger Safety FAQ


Simply, whether acquaintance or stranger – the child should be alert to his intent to get the child alone – or into his car. The bottom line to teach your child, “Do NOT go off with ANYONE!”  Make sure you see the escape techniques in Child Safety - Kidnapping Escape. Also see Free-Range Kids vs Safe-Range Kids for the stats on P.A.D.D. – predators, accidents, delinquency, and drugs.

Sex Offender Registries

Check out the FamilyWatchdog map showing the child molesters and other registered sex offenders living near you or just a short drive away. (And search Google for different websites for recent updates to sex offender maps).

There are actually more rapists and molesters than shown on the maps – the average child molester has 107 victims before his first arrest – and they won’t be on the maps – yet.


The Runnions moved to Stanton CA hoping for safer streets. A year later, their 5-year-old daughter, Samantha, was kidnapped kicking and screaming by a man who lured the girl by asking her to help find his dog, then raped and murdered her.

• "Your mother's been in an accident and they sent me to pick you up." (A secret code-word might thwart that ploy.)
• "I'm lost. Just get in the car and show me and I'll bring you right back."
• "I'm lost. What? I can’t hear you. Come closer to my car.”
• "I've lost my puppy. Can you help me find it? Come see this picture of my puppy.”
• "I've just found some money. Come with me and I'll share it with you." (Or other bribes.)
• A man with his arm in a sling and a load of books asking for help.
• Some predators even have fake police uniforms and gear. Don’t trust a “cop” without a real police car.

Kids must know to instantly run away in the opposite direction that the car is headed and immediately tell an adult what happened. Teach your children to trust only a uniformed police officer with a real police car.


Even after they’ve been warned of the above lures, studies show that kids still fall for them because the kidnapper looks and acts so nice and friendly. Of course, kids are naturally leery of scruffy, seedy, scary men. But what about the more common kidnapper – the gentle, charming, cuddly, “big teddy-bears?”

Bad men may look like fathers and uncles and neighbors because they are the fathers and uncles and neighbors of other kids. Again, teach your child to be leery of anyone trying to take the child anywhere.


Witnesses see the victim with the kidnapper 37 percent of the time – without realizing it until afterward. These scenarios are subtle.

About to enter a shopping mall, Monica passed a man leaving with a crying boy who clearly didn’t want to go. She stopped short, not sure of what to do. Was this man the boy's father?

Monica said to the boy, “Well, it looks like you don’t want to leave.” The man replied, “Dinner’s waiting at home.” The boy added, “But we didn’t go to the pet store.” The man said, “Mom’s coming here tomorrow. You can see the puppies then.” The boy seemed OK with that, so Monica was satisfied that the relationship between the two seemed legitimate.

When you see an adult leading a reluctant child, you might ask the child, “Is that your Daddy?” If you feel suspicious, at the very least, get the vehicle’s license plate number and call 911 immediately. Your concern may save a child's life.


An eight-year-old girl was murdered at a shopping mall in Perth, Australia. Police say her brother and her uncle went to a Men's restroom while she went to a Women's restroom alone.

A man in a Women's restroom of a Chicago restaurant choked an eight-year-old girl until she passed out. The girl had been with her mother when she went by herself to the restroom. Her mother heard a scream, ran in and found the man carrying her unconscious daughter into a stall. Others subdued Reese Hartstirn until police arrived. The girl was hospitalized.

David E. Maust lured teen boys to his Chicago home just like serial killer John Wayne Gacy did – by giving them money and alcohol. Police found the remains of three teens buried in his basement.

Never let a young child go alone into a public lavatory or locker-room. If the child is of the opposite sex, knock on the door, announce your intent, stick your head in to check it out, and then stand outside the door while keeping a running conversation with your child. Or take a younger child to your lavatory or locker-room with you – just make an announcement as you enter. Always remember that roughly 3 percent of men are pedophiles – that's 1 in 33.
• Get your child a Personal Security Alarm: a.k.a. noisemaker or screamer. An attacker won’t likely chase a noisy target. Attach the “pin-pull” type to a belt. Engrave
your name and phone number on the back of it. [Caution: to be used with the utmost parental discretion, supervision, and attention.]
Never leave your young child unattended in parks or stores. If you get separated within a crowd of adults, crouch down and look for your child's feet – they’ll be easier to spot. If no luck, loudly yell "Help! My child is missing!" People will respond. Notify staff personnel immediately.
Never let your child stray away from you in public areas. If ever separated from you, make sure your child knows to go to a cashier, uniformed guard, or to a woman with children – and to never leave the area. If anyone is trying to take the child away, the child must make a huge commotion – yell, scream, knock over displays, etc. (see Child Kidnapping Escape). Also consider using a GPS Child Locator. I highly recommend these if used with the utmost discretion. Also see How to Keep Track of Your Kid at a Crowded Event and Use a 'Family Whistle' to Quickly Find Your Kid in a Crowd
Never leave your child unattended in a video arcade, movie theater, playground, toy store, or a car – especially with the motor running.
Don’t display your child’s name-tags to enable a stranger to more easily approach them.
• Child molesters usually look for lone children. Some molesters are "bus trawlers" - they follow a school bus, waiting for kids who get off alone. Overall, most molesters look for
unsupervised kids (especially a kid alone).

Outdoor Dangers Include:

Three teenage girls ignored a ‘No Trespassing’ sign and were goofing around on a narrow railroad bridge when they were killed by a train in Melbourne, FL. Their parents had dropped them off at a shopping mall but they wandered off. A man was fishing under the bridge when he saw the girls walk onto it. He warned them but they ignored him. 


A child needs a lifeguard nearby when on dry land and especially when in water. Most people think drowning is easy to spot, but it’s certainly not – and can happen quickly. Rescuing is not so easy, either. See How to Spot a Drowning Swimmer.


A 9-year-old girl died when a sand hole collapsed on her at an Oregon beach. The girl had helped dig the hole along with her siblings and friends. The sand caved in after the girl sat down in the hole to see how deep it was. A witness said, “At first we thought, you know, it was just kids, but it was like screaming and screaming and screaming.” The witness called 9-1-1 and watched people desperately trying to dig the child out. She said, “The people were digging and digging and digging, and the sand just kept collapsing.”

(Yes, parents were nearby but didn't notice.) A lesson for all parents: children must be taught to never play in big holes in sand, dirt, or snow. You just don’t know when they’ll cave in and you’ll never be able to dig them out in time to save them - and that's if anyone happens to notice the cave-in. There have been cases where a kid goes missing and nobody has a clue of where to start looking or that the child had been playing in a hole. It can take days to finally find the body.

Children don't see potential dangers; it's a parent’s responsibility to do so. An especially well-prepared parent would attend a Red Cross CPR class as well as a First Aid class. It’s better to have those skills and not need them, rather than need them and not have them. You just might save a life someday. (I once used the Heimlich Maneuver to save my choking brother. Surprisingly, none of the strangers watching us had a clue of what to do.)


• Older kids must always get your OK before going anywhere, getting into any car, or going into any home. They must phone you regularly and have a definite schedule.
• Immediately leave a friend’s house (or anywhere) if they find a gun. Stop, Don’t Touch, Run to Tell You. And never give your child a toy that looks like a real gun.
• Always have at least one friend along when going to a public place – especially a lavatory.
• Walk only on safe routes to school and elsewhere that you’ve scouted out with your child – and avoid walking through parking lots. Point out safe havens along the way. Children should remain in groups.
• Stay beyond “grabbing distance” from anyone in a car trying to talk to them. Run in the opposite direction of any car following them.
• Go to any populated place for help in an emergency or if they’re lost – and be loud about it.
• Summon passing police officers, not by waving at them, but rather by drawing an outstretched hand toward one’s chest. In other words, use the “come here” gesture.
• Give up their valuables if ever they’re robbed – never to fight to keep them and escalate the violence.
• Never go alone to solicit funds for any project, especially never door-to-door.
• Always get your OK before accepting money, any gift, or a job.
• Always get your OK before anyone takes their photo.
• Tell you if anyone discusses sex or love with them.
• Beware of anyone who tries to persuade them to go against your wishes.
• Always tell you if anyone wants to keep a “special secret” from you.

Personal Safety Devices

Personal Security Alarm: (noisemaker or screamer). An attacker won’t likely chase a noisy target.
GPS Child Locator: a child tracking device. Various models are available. Highly recommended if used with the utmost parental discretion.


By Air
Book early with an airline that keeps lone children on board until other passengers have gotten off, so that the attendant can give them undivided attention. Choose a nonstop flight early in the day to avoid the possibility of cancellation or a missed connection that can mean an unexpected overnight stay.

Several days before, take your child on an airport tour to learn the procedures. Teach your child to trust only uniformed airline staff for help with restroom visits or any questions.

On flight day, arrive extra early, let the ticket agent know that your child will be flying alone, and then stay with your child until departure.

Prepare thorough destination arrangements, too. Make sure the person waiting to pick up your child must show photo ID to the airline before your child is released.

Read Parents Say Airline Lost Track of Their 12-Year-Old Daughter

By Bus or Train
Traveling by bus or train is less secure than by air thus you must take more precautions before letting your child travel alone. Age 14 is the minimum recommended. Check with the carrier for rules concerning children. Follow the guidelines above for air travel. Also, have the child inform each bus driver. Make sure any youngster traveling alone by bus or train is extremely well prepared and self-sufficient.

Online Tools to Keep Your Kids Out of Harm's Way

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Crime-Safety-Security > Child Safety Overview > Outdoor Safety

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