The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children shares valuable safety tips for the holidays, and throughout the year.
Just in time for the winter 2007-2008 holiday shopping season, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) issued some sensible safety tips for busy parents that we’d like to share with you. But all parents know how distracting it can be to shop or travel at any time of year, and how tough it is to stay focused on young children when sounds, lights, crowds and other distractions take over.
It’s common sense to talk with children about safety before heading out to a busy shopping mall or boarding a plane, train, or bus. Crowds are greater during the school holidays, and children may easily become separated from their parents, causing confusion and fear. If it happens, parents need a plan and children should know what to do. The NCMEC urges parents to do the following:
While Shopping, Always:
- Require children to stay with you at all times while shopping.
- Accompany and supervise children in public facilities, including restrooms.
- Have a plan in place in case you become separated, including a pre-designated spot to meet.
- Teach children to look for people who can help, such as a uniformed security officer, salesperson or mother with children.
- Remind children to remain in the area where they become separated.
- Turn shopping trips into opportunities to practice safe shopping skills
- Dress children in clothing that displays their first or last names, prompting unwelcome attention from people looking for an opportunity to start a conversation with your child.
- Leave children in toy stores or public facilities expecting supervision from store personnel.
- Go shopping or attend a public event with a child if you feel you’re going to be distracted. Make other arrangements for child care ahead of time.
- Allow younger children to shop on their own to purchase surprise gifts for friends or family members.
- Drop off older children at a mall or public place without agreeing on a clear plan for picking them up, including: where, what time, and what to do in case of a change in plans.
If Children Are Traveling Alone, Always:
- When you make reservations for your child, specify that the child will be traveling alone.
- Whenever possible, book a direct flight or route. If flying, avoid booking the last flight of the day.
- Plan to visit the airport, train or bus terminal prior to departure. Let your child know what to expect, so the experience will not be so intimidating.
- Remain at the station or gate until the train, plane or bus departs, in case there is a delay or cancellation.
- Make sure children travel with proper identification and contact information for parents or guardians.
- Always have a back-up plan for the person or people meeting the plane at the destination, in case they are delayed.
- Encourage children not to become too friendly with other passengers or to reveal any personal information.
Additional safety tips can be found at www.missingkids.com.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that works in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. For more information about NCMEC, call its toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST or visit www.missingkids.com.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.