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Little Known Ways That Parents Might Put Their Kids At Risk For Abduction Or Injury

Updated on March 12, 2013
May 25th is National Missing Children's Day, started in 1983 by then President Ronald Reagan.
May 25th is National Missing Children's Day, started in 1983 by then President Ronald Reagan. | Source

Things to think about...

With almost fourteen years of retail experience behind me, it amazed me that even with all of today's ongoing publicity about child abductions, television commercials, campaigns to keep kids safe and everything else that is being done to try to prevent child abductions, that parents would still do things (not intentionally either) to put kids at risk. This is purely from personal experiences and I hope that by sharing it might help parents to think first before they do things, and hopefully help to protect kids.

When shopping in the store with a little one, it is very important to have them sit in the shopping cart in the seat provided in most carts. Buckle the safety belt if one is provided, and be sure to keep an eye on the child. This is sometimes hard to do with all of the distractions present in a retail store. That along with all of the fascinating people watching can cause one to temporarily look away.

I was at the back of our store one time and I watched helplessly from a far distance as a child STOOD up on the shopping cart seat, and in the blink of an eye, he fell out and hit his head. In most retail stores, that concrete floor is HARD and will cause injury. Luckily, he wasn't seriously injured, but he could have been. In retail, workers are usually trained to nicely ask the child to please sit so they don't get hurt. You would be AMAZED at how many parents take offense to that and say terrible things to workers who are merely trying to be helpful and who are hoping to prevent the child from getting hurt.

Workers who say something are NOT out to "embarrass" the parent, or to try to insinuate that the parent is not capable in ANY way. It is only for the child's protection... at least the workers we had in our store certainly meant nothing by asking the child to please sit. Often times, if we happened to have an "I buckled up for safety" sticker along with us, we would give one to the child for being so good and for listening!

It always amazed me how parents would sometimes become distracted and walk AWAY from that cart, leaving a small child "just for a moment" to look at something or to get something. It probably was purely out of LUCK that the child was not either taken or hurt while they were doing whatever it was that was so important.

Now, I raised twin boys and I absolutely KNOW how difficult it is to shop with a little one. Believe me, when I had a tantrum on my hands, it happened in STEREO. Fortunately, our boys really did have pretty mellow personalities and were pretty easy going most of the time. But I DO sympathize with parents who have little firecrackers on their hands!

But please remember to be watchful of kids when you have them out in public, for their own safety and for your peace of mind. God forbid that an opportunistic predator is watching and in the blink of an EYE could grab a small child and be out the door with them. Fortunately, that never happened where I worked when I worked in retail... thank GOD!

It also amazed me with all of the news stories, horrible catastrophic stories of children taken and never found, or not found alive, that parents will still take some risks with their kids. Remember Adam Walsh in Florida, taken back in 1981 and killed by a serial killer? To this day his father, John Walsh, works diligently to try to protect other children and to try to keep parents from going through the PAIN that their family went through. That being said, there are still parents out there that LET their kids go "look around" in the toy department alone.

And it isn't always older kids either. I've seen very little ones left alone in aisles to look at the toys. The parent may be thinking "WHEW now I can look around without that distraction!" What they may not realize is that their precious "distraction" can be taken in the blink of an eye and never seen again. Not that any parent would ever INTEND for that to happen, but it occasionally does.

I remember seeing not too long ago, here in 2012, a video of a little girl in a Wal Mart who was picked up in the toy department. They store video camera caught it all on tape. She kicked and SCREAMED and made such a commotion that the man put her down and left.

Always teach your kids to kick, scream, and make as much commotion as possible if (God forbid) they are ever picked up by a strange person. These actions may very well have saved that little girl's life. I think that video cameras used in retail today are a Godsend to help identify any person who attempts to take a child.

I often got the feeling when I was working in or near the toy department that some parents felt it was the duty of the store personnel to watch their kids for them while they went off and shopped. This didn't happen often, but when it did, it never ceased to amaze me. Store workers are often tasked with work that they need to accomplish and they are often working under a time deadline to accomplish it. Most workers will keep an eye out for a child just out of being kind-hearted, but you do have some workers who will not do that... and parents must not depend on the tenderheartedness of store personnel to protect their child.

What Is Behind Those Stickers On Cars?

We were out driving recently and saw a minivan with several stickers on the back window. You know the ones I mean, those that look like "hieroglyphics" and show stick figures of each family member and sometimes of the family dog, cat and goldfish. This is fine, but the stickers we saw on Saturday were of soccer balls. And prominently displayed on the window, were the names of two little girls. I'm sure it was a source of pride for the parents. Their little girls are "soccer stars" so why not advertise that?

Only problem is, there is a potential risk that by displaying your child's names on the vehicle, if you were to pull into a park to let the girls kick the soccer ball around... lets say a predator has followed you into that park. He is now over by some trees watching the girls and he calls the girls by name. In the blink of an eye, that child could be taken... all due to their thinking that this must be someone they know because "he knew my name." Now I realize that the likelihood of this happening would be pretty small. But why take any risk at all?

I would ask parents to please think when they see stickers that are "cute" and can be used to advertise their child's talents, especially if those stickers involve displaying the child's name. The same advice has been given on other websites, advice about never allowing your child to wear an article of clothing with their name displayed on it out in public. In searching these well meaning websites, I didn't find any kind of warnings about car stickers like these.

If you really want to display something like that, why not use soccer balls and jerseys with numbers? That way, you are not displaying your child's name. Just a thought. I know it's not good to be constantly paranoid or to be overly protective, but sometimes just using a little extra precaution and common sense can go a long way to help promote safety.

After all, no one wants to be the next parent tearfully pleading on television to someone to please return their child unharmed. This little dog, "McGruff" has been used to help to promote child safety, and he has excellent advice!

Here are a few realities of child abductions:

  • Most abductions are done by men, and it is mostly female children taken by them.
  • Only about 25% of abductions are done by strangers, but still, if your child is one of those, it is too many.
  • Most kids that are abducted are in their teen years.. you read that right... teenagers are most often the victims of abductions.
  • Kids are hardly ever taken from school grounds, usually it is on the way to school if they are walking alone, or when left alone in some other public place such as a retail store. Never let them walk alone, have them use a buddy system. And never leave them alone to "look at the toys."

Be sure to always teach your kids what to do if (God forbid) there is ever an attempted abduction. Teach them that it's important for them to:

  • Never go anywhere with a stranger, even if they make it sound like "fun." Teach them that adults should never be asking them for help, whether it be directions, or to help them to find a lost puppy, for example.
  • Run and SCREAM as loudly as possible if anyone ever attempts to put them into a car.
  • Always be sure to have permission from a parent to go to a friends house, and use the buddy system if walking.
  • Say "no" to anyone who asks them to do something that makes them uncomfortable, or tries to touch them in a way that feels uncomfortable.
  • Never accept any kind of gifts, candy or anything else from a stranger.
  • Always let them know that they can talk to a trusted adult if anyone has tried to make them feel uncomfortable, or if a stranger is asking personal questions.

Some important things for parents to keep in mind is to teach your child at the youngest age possible their full phone number, including the area code. Teach them HOW to call for help, if there is a 911 system in place in your area, that makes it easier. But if not, have them learn the number of the police department, and be sure they know parents phone numbers by heart.

Discuss with them what to do if they ever are lost in a store, how to know that they can go to an employee of the store that will help. Tell them to NEVER go into the parking lot to look for you, teach them to ask a cashier or other employee for help. Most retail stores have policies in effect for child safety, and workers are willing to help.

There are a lot of internet warnings out there as well, some may seem like common sense, but you'd be surprised how open many kids can be on the internet. Instruct them to NEVER give their full name, the school they go to, the town they live in, their address or such other personal information out on the internet. This includes Facebook. It has amazed me how young some of the kids were that were on Facebook back when I used to go on there.

Always remember this number if (God forbid) a child you love is ever taken:

National Center For Missing And Exploited Children:

1-800- 843-5678 (1-800-The Lost)

May 25th is National Missing Children's Day, started in 1983 by then President Ronald Reagan.


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    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      You're welcome, Rosemary! I had never thought about putting the child's name on things either... it is a strange and often crazy world we live in today! :) Hope your dream comes true! :)

    • RosemaryHale profile image


      6 years ago from Texas

      This is a great hub. I constantly see children in retail stores walking around by themselves. Some parents even let their children run off by themselves in very large stores, like Wal-mart. So unsafe! Once, when I was little, I was separated from my mother in a store for about a minute and a half, and I FREAKED OUT. I can only imagine how scared these children can be when their parents are nowhere to be found, or if, God forbid, they actually do get taken. I will admit that I had never thought about putting names on children's clothing as being dangerous. But since you mentioned it, I can definitely see the danger. So thank you, from a future mom (hopefully) :)

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Glad you like this, Stephanie, I figure if I can make one parent think and be more watchful, then I've done what I wanted to do with this! I know what you mean about the little ones sometimes being real friendly... there was a little guy at CVS one day when I was there walking around giving everyone "high fives" and saying "hi" to everyone. It was so cute, but still... his Mom did seem to be pretty watchful though, so that was great to see! :) Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thanks teaches12345 for your thoughtful comment. It amazed me when I used to go on Facebook how much info kids would have on there and share... it is a much different world today than back when I was a kid! Thanks again!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      6 years ago from USA

      This is a great article for parents, grandparents or a child's caregiver to read. How easy it is to inadvertently put a child at risk! Another thing that sometimes worries me is how friendly small children are to strangers. Recently, a little girl around three struck up a conversation with me in a beauty salon while her mother was having her hair done. True, I look like a kindly grandmother, but I was a little worried that the little girl could become too friendly to the wrong person. It would have been easy to lead her around a corner out of sight of her mom. Thanks for bringing up some points that we just don't think about like the names on the back of a car. Unfortunately, we have to be more vigilant than ever in protecting our children.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      6 years ago

      Wonderful information for parents to have and keep on file (and in memory). There are too many children, as you say, that are taken each year. I did not realize that most of them were teen-agers but with the rise of social media many of them are lured to meet with strangers outside the home. I believe parents should teach children from early on (three?) how to deal with stangers. Great article and voted up.

    • KathyH profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Waukesha, Wisconsin

      Thanks laurathegentleman, that had to be SO scary! Kids just think they're playing, they have no idea how many gray hairs they give us when they do stuff like that! Thank you for reading and commenting! :)

      So true, loopylou! I saw a lot of tantrums in all those years, stores seem to be a prime place for them to happen, so much stimulation and temptation.. when a Mom says "no" ... watch out! But walking away like that just isn't right. Thanks for your thoughtful comment! :)

    • loopylou2012 profile image


      6 years ago from newton aycliffe

      This is a very good hub and I agree with everything you said. I NEVER let my child out of my site, he's 7 now but if i'm in a store or anywhere public I always have my eyes on him.

      Some parents take their kids for granted and their safety. I was in my local town once and I saw a child having a temper tantrum and the mother just walked away and went into a nearby shop leaving the child crying outside, luckily the child quickly followed her mother but things could of been a lot different.

      Look after your children and don't let them out of your sight EVER!

      Voted up, wonderful and very useful :)

    • laurathegentleman profile image


      6 years ago from Chapel Hill, NC

      Very true, and VERY important for parents to read and be aware of. I think that in MOST cases, you have nothing to worry about, but better safe than sorry!

      My mother and grandmother brought my little brother with them to the mall when we was two, and he wandered into the dressing rooms and "hid" in one of the stalls, and they actually had to shut down the store and not let anyone enter or leave until he was found!


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