The race is on! During the holiday season, child safety procedures are imperative because of the large crowds we see everywhere. Everyone is engaged in the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Everyone. Not simply moms, dads, aunts and uncles looking for the perfect gifts, but child predators looking for their next victim as well. The large crowds present at shopping malls and department stores make their jobs much easier; there is more anonymity and more distractions for parents with children in tow. As a result, there are several safety precautions every shopping parent should take when accompanied by the children.
Supervision! When in a mall or other public facility, always supervise your children. Always accompany your child to the restroom. Many modern malls are installing restrooms/changing areas made especially for families, which makes it easier for dad to take his daughter to the restroom without having to take her into the sparkling clean men’s room that incidentally also contains men. Depending on the age and responsibility of the child, they may be allowed to have some time away from mom. If that is the case, make sure they check with you before they go and that they do not go to locations other than where they stated.
Separation. It is possible for a child to become separated from you while shopping. The possibility of that unfortunate event makes it imperative that children know what to do. Teach them to look for people who can help return him to her to you. They should be able to identify law-enforcement officers, security officers, store personnel or another mother with children as persons who can get them back to their parents. They should not leave the area where they first realize they are lost and never, ever leave the mall to look for your car.
Practice. Visits the mall with your children for the sole purpose of having them practice what they should do while in the mall. Here is where you can ensure they can use a public telephone, locate help within the mall or a store and, for older children, go to the restroom with a friend.
Anonymity. Never dress your children in clothing with their names on them. Such clothing allows a predatory person an avenue to convince the child they are not “strangers” and could lead to further unwanted behavior. No stranger should have such an invitation to talk to your child.
Not for babysitting.
Parents or guardians should never leave children alone at video arcades, movie theaters, toy store or playground. In these places, there is no supervision and the people staffing these areas are generally not much older than your children. Frankly, most are not watching for inappropriate behavior and they don’t care about your child. as a convenient "babysitter" while they are holiday shopping. These places are also magnets for child predators.
Older children have likely ventured out on their own before. If you allow them to do this while holiday shopping, as mentioned earlier, make sure they have a friend with them. There is safety in numbers. Although you may let them go off on their own, they should regularly check in with you, in person, not via cellular telephone or text message. Plans for meeting each other should be clearly conveyed and adhered to by everyone.
There is no substitute for parental supervision while holiday shopping. If you can’t adequately supervise your children without being distracted, stay at home or leave them with someone else while you do your shopping.
An excellent source for all manner of information regarding child safety, preventing abduction, and identifying potentially dangerous circumstances is the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.missingkids.com
). Give them a visit and your children will be safer for it.