Street Sense & Child Safety

People across the province are giving a collective sigh of relief as they learn of 3-year-old Kienan Hebert’s return to his family in Sparwood, BC. The news is certainly a happy ending to BC’s most recent Amber Alert.

In light of such an event, we thought it might be a good time to review the basics of street sense and “stranger danger” with parents and caregivers.

In the CBC news article Streetproofing Your Kids, the definition of a “stranger” is perhaps different than we might assume. The article reports that in an abduction, a stranger is anyone other than the child’s parent. They can be a close friend, neighbour, uncle, grandparent or another family member. In 2007, 71% of children abducted by strangers were taken from their families or foster homes.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, however, is that “stranger danger” is only a small part of the overall issue.

The National Missing Children Services reports that the vast majority of child abductions are by the very people they may know best: their parents. In 2007, there were 285 parental abductions in Canada compared to 56 stranger abductions. Nearly half of all parental abductions involved children under the age of 5.

The RCMP lists valuable tips for families to consider when trying to ramp up their street sense:

  1. Teach children their name (especially their last name), address, telephone number parents’ names, places of work and contact numbers. Also, teach children how to Dial 911 at home and from a public telephone in an emergency. Keep in mind that the extent of information learned will depend upon the child’s age and maturity level.
  2. Insist that very young children hold the supervising adult’s hand continually while walking to and from stores, play areas, school grounds, camping and the like. Older children should stay close by their parents.
  3. Children must be taught not to wander away from you in public places or play ‘hide and seek’. If they become separated or lost, teach them to tell someone with a name tag, a cashier or a security guard right away, preferably a female.
  4. Encourage children to travel in groups, regardless of their age. The popular “buddy system” works best.
  5. Insist that children check with you before accepting a ride, gift or candy from someone, even if they know the person. Children should be told that adults do not ask children for help.

For more information on how to street-proof your kids:

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James Buckley
James was part of the team of lawyers who joined Tony and Mike at the start up of Slater Vecchio LLP in 1998. James has only ever practiced in the area of plaintiff’s personal injury law.