In 1983, President Ronald Reagan declared May 25 to be National Missing Children’s Day, and each administration since has honored this day as an annual reminder to make child protection a national priority.
To further commemorate this day, in May 2007, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) launched Take 25, a nationwide grassroots effort designed to heighten awareness of the issues surrounding missing and exploited children.
The Take 25 campaign encourages law enforcement, parents, and educators to take 25 minutes to talk to children about ways to be safer, and encourages an ongoing dialogue with children about safety.
With a focus on prevention, Take 25 provides communities with free safety resources including safety tips, conversation starters, and engaging activities. The Grafton Police department would once again like to provide the following 25 Ways to Make Kids Safer offered by NCMEC at www.take25.org.
1. Teach your children their full names, address, and home phone number. Make sure they know your full name.
2. Make sure your children know how to reach you at work or on your cell phone.
3. Teach your children how and when to use 911. Make sure your children have a trusted adult to call if they’re scared or have an emergency.
4. Instruct children to keep the door locked and not open the door to talk to anyone when they are home alone. Set rules with your children about having visitors over when you’re not home and how to answer the telephone.
5. Choose babysitters with care. Obtain references from family, friends, and neighbors. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask children how the experience with the caregiver was and listen carefully to their responses.
ON THE NET
6. Learn about the Internet. The more you know about how the Web works, the better prepared you are to teach your children about potential risks. Visit www.NetSmartz.org for more information about Internet safety.
7. Place the family computer in a common area, rather than a child’s bedroom. Also, monitor their time spent online and the websites they’ve visited and establish rules for Internet use.
8. Know what other access your child may have to the Internet at school, libraries, or friends’ homes.
9. Use privacy settings on social networking sites to limit contact with unknown users and make sure screen names don’t reveal too much about your children.
10. Encourage your children to tell you if anything they encounter online makes them feel sad, scared or confused.
11. Caution children not to post revealing information or inappropriate photos of themselves or their friends online.
12. Walk the route to and from school with your children, pointing out landmarks and safe places to go if they’re being followed or need help. If your children ride a bus, visit the bus stop with them to make sure they know which bus to take.
13. Remind kids to take a friend whenever they walk or bike to school. Remind them to stay with the group if they’re waiting at the bus stop.
14. Caution children never to accept a ride from anyone unless you have told them it’s OK to do so in each instance.
OUT AND ABOUT
15. Take your children on a walking tour of the neighborhood and tell them whose homes they may visit without you.
16. Remind your children it’s OK to say NO to anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, scared or confused and teach your children to tell you if anyone makes them feel that way.
17. Teach your children to ask permission before leaving home.
18. Remind your children not to walk or play alone outside.
19. Teach your children never to approach any vehicle, occupied or not, unless they know the owner and are accompanied by a trusted adult.
20. Practice "what if" situations and ask your children how they would respond. "What if you fell off your bike and you needed help? Who would you ask?”
21. Teach your children to check in with you if there is a change of plans.
22. During family outings, establish a central, easy-to-locate spot to meet for check-ins or should you get separated.
23. Teach your children how to locate help at theme parks, sports stadiums, shopping malls, and other public places. Also, identify those people who are safe to ask for help, such as law enforcement, security guards and store clerks with nametags.
24. Help your children learn to recognize and avoid potential risks so that they can deal with them if they happen.
25. Teach your children that if anyone tries to grab them, they should make a scene and make every effort to get away by kicking, screaming and resisting.
Anyone with questions for the Chief’s Column may submit them by mail to the Grafton Police Department, 28 Providence Road, Grafton, MA 01519. You may also email your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include an appropriate subject line, as I do not open suspicious email for obvious reasons.
Normand A. Crepeau, Jr. is Grafton's Chief of Police