Tens of thousands of children go missing every year in Canada.
The danger isn't new, but it isn't going away either.
In recent years there's been an average of more than 60,000 children reported missing across
Canada, and roughly one third of those come from Ontario. It's not something parents usually expect, but it can happen in
"Often you see parents walking ahead and the kids behind them," said Trish Derby, Executive
Director of Child Find Ontario.
"Put your kids in front of you, and you're walking behind them if need be."
To help keep your children safe, Derby also recommends the "What if?" game.
"What if mom was late picking you up from soccer?" she uses as an example.
"Do you wait for mom? Do you have a cell phone number? Do you go with your neighbour?"
And if you're worried contemplating such unpleasant experiences will merely scare your children
and do more harm than good, consider this: it's better to scare a child than to lose it.
Some parents also think keeping kids in strollers is a good way to prevent kids from running
off, but experts remind parents that if a child's old enough to climb into a stroller, they're old enough to climb right out
Here are some tips to prevent child abduction, courtesy of Child Find Canada:
Young children should:
1. never say they are alone if they answer the phone: they can offer to take
a message or say their parents will phone back.
2. never answer the door if they are alone.
3. not invite
anyone into the house without the permission of a parent or babysitter.
4. not go into people's houses without letting
anyone know where they are.
5. never get into anyone's car without permission.
6. not take candy or other
gifts from strangers or anyone else without asking a parent first.
7. never play in deserted buildings or isolated
8. scream and scatter books and belongings if they are forced toward a building or car.
9. move away
from a car that pulls up beside them if they do not know the driver.
10. be taught their full telephone number and
11. be taught that it's all right to say 'no' to an adult if the person wants them to do something you've
taught them is wrong.
12. know that no one has the right to touch any part of their bodies that a bathing suit would
13. tell you, school authorities or a police officer about anyone who exposes private parts.
you if someone has asked them to keep a secret from you.
15. go to the nearest cashier if lost or separated from
you in a store or mall.
16. tell you where they are at all times or leave a written or recorded message at home.
17. never hitchhike.
18. avoid shortcuts through empty parks, fields, laneways or alleys.
home or go to the nearest public place and yell for help if they are being followed.
20. learn to recognize suspicious
behavior and remember a description of the person or vehicle to give you or the police. Write the plate number in the dirt
or snow if nothing else is available.
21. if attacked for money, jewelry or clothing give it up rather than risk
22. feel that they can talk to you and call you to pick them up any time, any place.
23. avoid clothing and toys with your child's name on it. A child is less likely to
fear someone that knows his/her name.
24. check all potential babysitters and older friends of your child.
leave a child alone in a public place, stroller or car. Not even for a minute.
26. always accompany young children
to the bathroom in a public place and advise them never to play in or around the area.
27. always accompany your
child on door-to-door activities, i.e. hallowe'en, school fundraising campaigns, etc.
28. point out safe houses or
homes with the Block Parent sign where children can go if they are in trouble.
29. keep an up-to-date colour photograph
of your child, a medical and dental history, and have your child fingerprinted.
For more information, visit Child Find Canada's website.
Parents don't only have to keep close tabs on their youngsters outside of the home, but inside as well if kids are surfing
Here are some things parents and kids should know about the dangers in the online world, courtesy of the Media Awareness
How Do Predators Work?
Online Predators Are Usually:
- Sexually Indiscriminate
According to the Media Awareness Network, predators often try to seduce victims with affection, compliments, and even gifts
and they're often willing to spend a lot of time and money on this process.
They'll try to lower a young person's inhibitions by gradually introducing sexual talk.
But there are others who will try to engage a victim in explicit conversation right away and could include online harassment
What Children Are At Risk?
- New online and unfamiliar with Netiquette
- Actively seeking attention/affection
- Isolated or lonely
- Confused regarding sexual identity
- Easily tricked by adults
- Allured by subcultures outside of parents' world
How can parents minimize the risk of a child becoming a victim?
- Talk to your kids about sexual predators and potential online dangers.
- Young children shouldn't use chat rooms, period-the dangers are too great. As children get older, steer them towards well-monitored
chat rooms for kids. Even teens should be encouraged to use monitored chat rooms.
- Instruct your children to never leave the public area of a chat room. Many chat rooms offer private areas where users
can have one-on-one conversations.
- If your children participate in chat rooms, make it your business to know what chat rooms they visit and who they talk
to. Monitor the chat areas yourself to see what kind of conversations are going on.
- Keep the computer with Internet access in a common area of the house, never in a child's bedroom. It's much more difficult
for a predator to establish a relationship with your child if the computer screen is easily visible to parents and other household
- When your children are young, they should share the family email address rather than having their own email accounts.
As they get older, you can ask your ISP to set up a separate email address, but kids' mail should still reside in your account.
- Teach your children never to respond to instant messaging or emails from strangers.
- For places outside your area of supervision-such as the public library, school, or friend's homes-find out what computer
safeguards are used.
- If all precautions fail and your kids do encounter an online predator, remember that they're not to blame in any way.
The offender always bears the complete responsibility for his actions.
How can kids minimize the risk of being victimized?
- Never download images from an unknown source, as they could be sexually explicit.
- Tell an adult immediately if anything happens online that makes them feel uncomfortable or frightened.
- Choose a gender-neutral nickname.
- Never reveal personally identifiable information (including age and gender) online.
- Post the family online agreement by the computer to remind them to protect their privacy on the Internet.
How can you tell if a child is being targeted?
Here some clues that may indicate that a child has been targeted by an online predator:
- A child or teen spends large amounts of time online
- Most children who fall victim to online predators spend a lot of time online, particularly in chat rooms. In such cases,
parents should monitor how much time is spent online, and in what activities.
- You find pornography on the family computer
- Predators often use pornography to sexually victimize children-often supplying it as a way to open sexual discussions
with potential victims.
- Child pornography may be used to convince a child victim that adults having sex with children is "normal." Parents should
be aware that a child may hide pornographic files on diskettes, especially if the computer is used by other family members.
- A child or teen receives phone calls from people you don't know; or makes calls to numbers you don't recognize-sometimes
- Online predators may try to contact young people to engage in "phone sex," or to try to set up a real-world meeting. If
kids are hesitant to give out their home phone number, online sex offenders will give out theirs. Some have even obtained
toll-free 1-800 numbers, so their potential victims can call them without their parents finding out. Others will tell the
child to call collect-and then, with Caller ID, they can easily find out the child's phone number.
- A child or teen receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don't know
- It's common for offenders to send letters, photographs, and all manner of gifts to their potential victims. Computer-sex
offenders have even sent plane tickets to try to entice a child or teen to travel across the country to meet them.
- A child or teen becomes withdrawn from family and friends; or quickly turns the computer monitor off or changes the screen
if an adult comes into the room
- Online predators work hard to drive wedges between kids and their families, often exaggerating any minor problems at home.
Sexually victimized children often become withdrawn and depressed. And if kids are avoiding their friends or skipping classes,
they may be attempting to meet with a predator.
- A child is using someone else's online account
- Even kids who don't have access to the Internet at home may meet an offender while online at a friend's house or the library.
Predators will sometimes provide their victims with a computer account, so they can communicate with them.
What can you do if a child is being targeted?
- You should contact your local police immediately if an online correspondent sends a young person child pornography or
sexually explicit images; and especially if a young person is actually sexually solicited.
- Check your computer for pornographic files or any kind of sexual communications-these can be warning signs.
- Monitor the child's access to all live electronic communications, such as chat rooms, instant messages, and email. Online
predators almost always meet potential victims in chat rooms at first, and then continue communicating with them electronically
For more information on keeping your kids safe online, visit the following links:
Media Awareness Network