National Missing Children's Day Is a Reminder for All Moms

Heather Chaet

missing children's dayTwo weeks ago, we got an email from Kiddo's preschool, reminding all parents of the safety precautions in place for pick-up time. There had been an incident at a nearby school of a woman (probably a bit deranged) trying to kidnap a child as her mother hailed a taxi. It freaked me out. Brought back a reality that we don't think about until we hear stories like this.

Today is National Missing Children's Day. On May 25, 1979, 6-year-old Ethan Patz disappeared walking to school. He was never found. Probably one of the most famous cases of a missing child, Ethan's disappearance has helped millions of lost children. Ethan's case brought national attention to missing kids and new approaches to finding missing kids began. His case started the whole pictures on milk cartons campaign. Because of all of these regulations and alert systems, today, many kids who are reported missing are found.

That is amazing. But (and there's always a but), it still isn't enough.

A lot of parents I talk to find comfort -- if you can call it that -- with the stat that, of the 800,000 kids that are reported missing every year, the majority of missing kids are runaways or involved in a family dispute, a custody battle. Sure, this is reassuring, and we have come such a long way since Ethan's disappearance, made such great strides, but new dangers have cropped up, mainly how we invite strangers into our lives ... on the Internet.

The fact is there are creeps still out there. We've all seen Chris Hanson and his To Catch a Predator, right? There are bad people lurking in cyberspace. You just don't know who your kids may be chatting with online. They probably (most likely, fingers crossed) just chat with their BFFs from school, but one slip of information to a stranger, and your family could become vulnerable.

We've talked about keeping your kiddos safe online and off -- how much should you share online, how to teach your kids to be safe on Facebook, setting parameters of your kid's computer use, being sure you know your kids' passwords, talking to strangers, having a family code word ... it's a lot to do. Thanks to all of the progress made since Ethan disappeared over 30 years ago, we have better resources, better alerts if something does happen. But it will never be enough.

I remember sitting at my kitchen table as a kid, seeing other kids' pictures on the carton of 2% milk while eating my cereal. I didn't really get it. Now, as a mom, I do. As I dropped off Kiddo at preschool this morning, I hugged her a little tighter, gave her an extra kiss. National Missing Children's Day is a good day for all of us to remember to do all we can to keep our kids safe ... whether walking down the street or surfing online.

Do you have a great tip to share to keep kids safe -- online and off?


Image via Katrina Nicole/Flickr

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