HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) — Any parent knows the struggle of chasing after young kids in a public place. Add the summertime crowds at pools, amusement parks and other kid-friendly areas, the task of keeping them in your sight becomes even more difficult.
According to Parents Magazine, “In a 2005 report, the U.S. Department of Justice estimated that some 340,500 children a year become temporarily separated from a parent or a caregiver for at least an hour.” That statistic only includes reported incidents.
“Generally we deal with kids wandering off,” said Cpl. Anthony Cremeans from the Cabell County Sheriff’s Office.
While it’s more common for a child to wander off than be taken, Cremeans says it’s important to take precautions no matter what.
He says you should always keep a close eye on your child. If they do get lost, make sure they know your real name.
“Teach your children your proper name instead of mommy or daddy or grandma,” said Cremeans. Otherwise, their calls could get lost in a sea of moms, dads and grandmas.
You should also teach them to stay where they are, Cremeans said, to narrow down the search area.
Parents Magazine suggests teaching kids to look for another mom with kids if they are too young to identify a police officer.
The website also recommends dressing your kids in bright clothing.
“I can spot them from miles away if I needed to,” said Randi Shannon, a mom of four who spent Tuesday afternoon at Dreamland Pool. “They’re all wearing their neon stuff.”
Shannon’s kids are all under the age of 11. She said her 5-year-old knows to yell her real name if something is wrong.
“I’ve seen horrible videos of kids being snatched right from their parents,” Shannon said. It is her worst fear, which is why she teaches her kids about strangers. Her family has plans to go to an amusement park soon and she says she may even need a child leash for her youngest to be able to keep track of all of them in the crowds.
The Clovis Police Department in California posted about a unique safety tip in 2016. Write your phone number on the child’s wrist then cover it with liquid Band-Aid. You can also do this with clear nail polish.
Here are some other items Parents Magazine recommends for keeping your kids safe:
- Child ID Kit: Assemble one yourself with your child’s photo, height, weight, fingerprints, and other identifying info to help law enforcement if ever necessary. For details, go to missingkids.com/childID
- Temporary Tattoo: Write your cell number on one of these waterproof tattoos and paste it to your child’s arm. $21 for 18 write-on tattoos; safetytat.com
- ID Bracelet: Customize these bright disposable bracelets with your cell number and allergy/medical information. $10 for ten bracelets; mypreciouskid.com
- BuddyTag: This bracelet has a GPS tracker; a phone app tells you his whereabouts and alerts you if he goes more than a specified distance away. $40; mybuddytag.com
Cpl. Cremeans says one of the biggest mistakes you can make is waiting to report that your kid is missing. He says it’s important to limit the amount of time they are gone for a better chance of finding them nearby.
He says parents or caregivers shouldn’t be ashamed of reporting it because young kids are prone to getting distracted and taking off. There is a good chance the child hasn’t made it pretty far. However, if you can’t find them quickly, the important thing is letting authorities know.
“It’s not being a bad parent, it’s just sometimes those feelings, you’re overwhelmed and you don’t realize how much time’s lapsed,” Cremeans said. “The quicker the better for us because we can get all of our resources pulled together, that way we can have people, different agencies or different people searching in different areas.”
Cremeans said it’s also important to talk to your kids about the reality of stranger danger.
“There are a lot of misconceptions for children that the parents tell them or the teachers or whomever tell them that the stranger’s a bad person or they’re scary or look like a monster,” Cremeans said. “One of the things they need to know is strangers can be nice, too. They can be inviting. They can entice children with candy or whatever, you know.”