Teaching Skills, Instilling Confidence Best Ways to Prevent Child Abduction
“Stranger danger” lessons alone don’t protect children
Monday, October 04
ROCHESTER, Minn. – Parents and pediatricians could be doing more to prevent child abductions, says a new clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Daniel Broughton, M.D., a pediatrician at Mayo Clinic and former director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children agrees.
“Rather than teaching children to fear strangers, which is at best, woefully inadequate, we need to use positive messages,” says Dr. Broughton. “Children need to learn skills and confidence, not fear and avoidance.”
Dr. Broughton is one of the authors of the newly published American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report entitled, “The Pediatrician’s Role in the Prevention of Missing Children.” Published in the October issue of Pediatrics, the report offers prevention strategies for pediatricians to share with families.
Dr. Broughton says, too often, emphasis is placed on stranger danger. However, most children reported missing are runaways or were taken by noncustodial parents. Only a small number of children are victims of classic kidnappings, though many are abducted for shorter periods and released. Most people who perpetrate these crimes on children are not strangers in the eye and mind of the child.
“It could be a neighbor, a familiar face in the child’s daily routine, or someone the child’s parents know well enough to greet,” says Dr. Broughton.
According to research conducted by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in cases of long-term kidnapping in which the child was found alive, 85 percent of the victims did not consider the kidnapper to be a stranger. In at least 65 percent of the cases in which a child was found dead and the perpetrator identified, it was clear that the child would not have considered the person a stranger.
“Those statistics are powerful reasons to teach children a different approach than “don’t talk to strangers,” says Dr. Broughton. “The stranger danger message frightens them without any proven benefit.”
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