by Kimberly Blaker
Freelance Parenting Writer
Spokane CDA Woman, Sept/Oct 2015 (among others)
Scroll below clip to reader article in full.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, approximately 115 children are abducted by strangers each year in the United States. But strangers are only one of the culprits of foul play with our children. Tragically, children are at greater risk with acquaintances, family, and friends. Child predator dangers come in many forms, and different concerns are more prevalent at each stage of development.
Abduction – easy prey
During the infant and early years, children can be kidnapped quickly with no need for coaxing. Leaving a small child unattended in a stroller or locked car for just moments is long enough for an abduction to occur.
When shopping, keep your child in sight at all times. For difficult outings, leave your child with a sitter or use a child safety harness with toddlers. This gadget prevents small children from wandering off and reduces potential child predator dangers should parents become distracted.
As soon as your child is old enough to understand, read stories and discuss stranger dangers to reduce the risk of kidnapping.
At home or away, young children should be supervised when they play outdoors. As children grow, keep close tabs on their whereabouts. Never allow them to play unattended in parks, wooded lots, or secluded areas.
Abduction by an ex-spouse, estranged grandparents, or other family member is even more prevalent. More than 200,000 children are abducted by family members each year. If you suspect the possibility of this occurring, take every precaution, while abiding by child visitation requirements. If you have a serious concern, seek legal advice on how to protect your child when a court order requires you to allow unsupervised visitation with the potential perpetrator.
As your child grows, new risks develop. Pedophiles and other sexual predators are found in all walks of life. Although your child could be sexually abused at any age, most pedophiles prefer children nearing puberty. According to Child Lures, a child-abuse prevention program, pedophiles “prey on a child’s sexual ignorance and curiosity.”
Though not exclusively, sexual abuse is most often committed by males and of all social and economic backgrounds. Pedophiles often look for access to children by taking a job working with or near them, chaperoning or leading activities and clubs, coaching sports programs, or befriending an adult to gain access to a child. While not all men who take involvement with children are molesters, parents should remain alert to the possibility.
Teach your child what areas of the body are off limits to others and how to say ‘no’ to someone who touches them in a way that’s uncomfortable. In addition, make sure your child understands that if something does happen, your child isn’t to blame and should tell an adult.
There are a number of changes in your child’s behavior that might indicate something has gone wrong, according to the North American Missing Children’s Association. These include withdrawal, unusual anger, acting out, fear of being alone or with a particular person, or decreased interest in activities, especially those in which the molester is involved. If you notice unexplained changes in your child’s behavior, talk with your child to determine the problem, or seek professional help.
Internet Child Predator Dangers
It would seem child predator dangers should lessen as children grow. Instead, strangers and acquaintances begin to pose risks by different means. Nineteen percent of children aged 10 to 17 who use the Internet have been sexually propositioned according to a study by the Crimes Against Children Research Center of the University of New Hampshire. Although none of the children in the study had been physically victimized, approximately one-quarter of the children were distraught over the incidences.
To keep your kids safe on the Internet, purchase filtering software. Although filters are imperfect and don’t screen every inappropriate site, they significantly reduce access to danger sites.
In addition, insist your child or adolescent only use chat rooms designed for your child’s age group. This reduces risk of involvement in adult discussions. It’s also good to know some kids’ chat sites are moderated to ensure no inappropriate or potentially dangerous discussion takes place.
Make sure your children understand the importance of never giving out their names, address, phone number or other personal or family information to strangers on the Internet, no matter how young or friendly the acquaintance may seem.
Finally, keep a close eye on kids when they use the Internet. While teens need their privacy, monitor the situation if an abundance of time is being spent on the Internet.