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  Stranger Danger  
  How to prevent your kids from getting lost (and what to do if they get lost anyway).  
     
  BY SUSAN AVERY  
     
 

When 8-year-old Jared got lost at Madison Square Garden earlier this year, he instinctively followed a man he thought he recognized down the escalator and onto Seventh Avenue. According to child-safety experts, he did exactly the wrong thing. “The first thing you should teach your child in case he gets lost is, don’t wander away,” says Nancy McBride, the director of prevention education at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. What else should you know to keep kids safe in public places? Consider the following tips from the center.

Dress children in bright, colorful clothing so it’s easy to spot them in a crowd. And avoid name tags and clothes with kids’ names on them. Children are more likely to trust an unfamiliar adult who calls them by name.

Make sure kids carry some form of I.D. at all times. They should also carry emergency contact information including your home address and cell-phone number (a home phone isn’t useful if you’re out combing the streets). Don’t assume your kids know how to use a public phone. Teach them, and provide them with change.

When you arrive at an event, agree on a meeting place, in case you get separated. To be sure the designated spot registers, have your child repeat it out loud. Give kids their ticket stubs, so that if they get lost, someone can lead them back to their seats.

Remind your child not to go looking for you on her own if she gets lost. Instead, teach her to find the first mommy she can and ask for help. Security guards and police officers can take time to locate, and statistics show that most child abductors are men.

Don’t let young children go to bathrooms or concession stands without you, and send older kids in groups (predators tend to target kids who are alone).

Always carry an up-to-date picture of your child. It’s the most important way to help police, security guards, and others look for him.

Teach kids to walk away and seek help from another adult if a person or situation makes a child uncomfortable. Have them practice exactly what to do and say.

For additional tips, call NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST or log on to missingkids.com.

The good news? Ninety-nine percent of kids reported missing in 2002, according to the NYPD, were found. Including Jared.

 
     
 
From the Fall 2003 edition of the New York Family Guide
 
     
     
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