Bob Stuber is one of the America’s most recognized safety experts and the creator of Safe Escape, a video series that teaches parents and kids how to practice proactive safety skills. He shares his top five tactics all parents and kids should know to prevent child abduction:
1. Don’t Use the Word Stranger
Using the word stranger confuses kids. “Nowadays, kids think a stranger is somebody they can smell before they can even see. They can spot this guy. He’s hideous,” Bob says. That is not always the case. A stranger can look like a normal person to a child.
2. Be Smart, Not Scared
Give children specific examples of how to react when approached by a potential predator. “When you’re scared and you respond out of fear, you respond in a predictable manner. Pedophiles know it and they love it. That’s how they want you.” Bob says. “When you’re smart, you’re not predictable.”
3. Learn to Spot Dangerous Actions
“You’ve got to teach children to look at actions, not at people,” Bob explains. “Kids cannot discern if a person is good or bad by their appearance. It’s impossible.” For example, if a car drives by you and the person smiles and continues to drive, that’s OK. If the person pulls over and tries to get a child to come to the car, that’s a dangerous action.
Bob also suggests if a child is approached by a person in a car, he or she should immediately walk in the direction that is opposite of the way the car is facing, which makes it more difficult to follow the child.
4. Rules Change When a Child is in Danger
Children need to know that they do not need to display normal acceptable behavior when they're in trouble; they can act out. Bob explains that when a child is in a store, he or she wouldn't normally make a mess. "If somebody tried to grab a kid out of a store, he needs to know, 'I can knock anything off this shelf to get attention.' The more expensive, the better, because then a manager is going to get involved," Bob says.
Dr. Phil adds that it's not only important to tell your children that they can act out, but parents should role play with their children. "They need to know when the rules are changed. When you feel threatened, you need to know you're not going to get in trouble. You can talk back to adults, you can defy, you can yell, scream, pee your pants, knock stuff off a shelf, throw a chair through a window — anything you have to do to get attention — if somebody is taking you against your will," Dr. Phil says. "If you're wrong, we'll clean it up." 5. Get Your Child a Passport
"If you get a passport for your child, it's harder for somebody else to get one if they take them. They can do it, but it's much more difficult," Bob says. If someone else is attempting to get a passport for your child, the process will take some time, and the time will work in your favor.
Bob reminds parents, "Kids are not afraid to talk about this. What they're afraid of is silence, then they make up their own scenarios." He adds that parents need to speak with their children often, not just once a year.
TELL DR. PHIL YOUR STORY: Life in crisis?
- Travel to school with your child every few weeks. Check out the route and observe the individuals who come in contact with your child. Typical abductors are people who see your child every day, and your child may even speak to this person.
- Teach your child to ask Mom or Dad before assisting or going with another adult. Children need to know they can tell their parents anything.
- GPS is not a good protector of children, because predators are familiar with these devices. Get an ID bracelet for your child and put the child's name, the word "reward" and your phone number on the backside. Tell your child if someone tries to take them, remove the bracelet and throw it on the ground. Someone will find it and contact you. Law enforcement will strengthen their search once they have a clue.
- If your child is missing, make sure to tell authorities about the tactics you've taught your child. They can incorporate those clues in their search.