MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The kind of kidnapping that captivates the country — and the media — is thankfully very rare. On average 115 children under the age of 18 are abducted by strangers each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Still, every parent wonders what to tell their kids about being safe from abduction. Should kids avoid strangers? Should they run? Or fight?

What is the right thing to teach our kids about kidnappings?

“We’re teaching about behavior,” said Karen Notsch, a Minneapolis Police Department crime prevention specialist.

According to Notsch: “Stranger Danger” is out.

“That’s not what we’re teaching,” she said, noting “it’s not always the strangers that are the ones they should be suspicious about. It could be a close family member.”

Every year, the Department of Justice says 200,000 young people are abducted by a parent, typically as part of a dispute.

Another 60,000 young people are kidnapped by people the kids knew.

“We need to talk to kids about that. Tell them, ‘You need to talk to me first before uncle so-and-so or your cousin gets you in the car,’” Notsch said.

Another change has come to the idea that if the kidnapper has a weapon, a kid should just go along. Notsch said says they should fight back.

“I think they need to draw attention and hopefully an adult nearby will notice,” shesaid.

Elizabeth Smart was kidnapped in Utah in 2002 and survived 9 months in captivity. She’s started a foundation that teaches kids to fight back.

Here’s why. The National Center for Missing Children looked at 7,000 attempted abductions between 2005 and 2012 and found 81 percent escaped by fighting back or by running away. Only 19 percent who escaped did so because an adult helped.

“I am amazed at kids’ intuition; they know when something doesn’t make them comfortable,” Notsch said.

The Jacob Wetterling Resource Center recommends teaching toddlers their name and to stay within sight, preschoolers how to use 911 and how to yell for help, and to give elementary school kids a family password and teach them the buddy system.


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