My mother and father did an excellent job of ingraining the concept of Stranger Danger into me as a child. One might say they did to good of a job.
My father has four daughters and I know for a fact that his biggest fear is one of us being abducted. I know this because since I was 9 years old there has always been mug shots of local sexual offenders on his refrigerator. Our instructions if we happen upon on of these individuals? Scream “RAPE!” and “FIRE!” and start to run- even if this guy doesn’t talk to you. Fortunately, this scenario has never played out. My dad has a mantra we had to recite whenever we left the house. “Bad people do bad things to little kids.”
My mom was much less intense about Stranger Danger, but still very affective. She bought a VHS copy of How to Raise a Street Smart Child and had us watch it repetitivly. I feel like all parents and children should watch this video, together. It has a commentary by John Walsh, who is best known as the father of Adam Walsh, who was kidnapped and murdered the summer of 1981. There are many scary situations laid out in this documentary, the most scary being child abduction.
The documentary lays out different ways children and adults can thwart would-be kidnappers. One of the tips that has stayed with me into adulthood was to not ever have your child’s name printed anywhere on their clothing or backpack. Kidnappers can easily trick children into thinking they know them, or their parents, just by knowing their name.
If someone can lure my child away just because they know her name then I want as few people as possible to know it. This is why I do not post pictures of Eloise online. I have over 400 “friends” on Facebook. I have met and personally know just about all of these people, but do I really know all of them? No. Of course not. Even if I thought I knew someone well, you never really know, ya know?
When I was a couple of months pregnant I downloaded a sex offender locator app on my IPhone. Guess what? Three of my Facebook friends are on the list. One of them grew up around the corner from me. I’ve known him my whole entire life. He was convicted of owning child pornography. I would have never ever guessed. Ever.
Do I want this man, and unnamed and not yet found others, to be able to recognize my child at a glance? What about complete strangers? Facebook security settings can be tricky and change often. It is just is not something I am willing to risk.
According to The Federal Bureau of Investigation 49% of children are kidnapped by family members, 24% by strangers, and 27% by acquaintances. Kids taken by acquaintances are mainly female or teenagers and are the most likely to be sexually and/or physically abused. I encourage you to read this article, and visit these sites to learn more.
If, God forbid, something were to ever happen to my daughter I will have a SHORT list of people who know who she is and what she looks like.
Not posting pictures of her on Facebook really is a pain in my ass. I love to look at pictures of friend’s and relatives and acquaintances’ kids on Facebook. Without Facebook, I would hardly know what my adorable, far-away nephews are doing or see how much they’ve grown. I honestly am not judging other parents about putting pictures of their own children up. On the contrary, I am kind of embarrassed I come off like an aloof over bearing parent. I hate having to ask everyone who takes a picture of Elle to please not post it anywhere online.
Instead of posting openly online, I collected the email addresses of people I know and trust, who want to watch Eloise grown up, and email them updated pictures once a week.
I am keenly aware that I am an overly paranoid parent. The first month after Eloise was born I barely slept because I was convinced if I stopped watching her while she slept she would die of SIDS. I have completely banned outdoors without the use of an insect net after she was stung on the face by a bee (To be fair, though, Robert’s family has a history of severe anaphylactic shock from bee stings). I spend a good part of my life worrying about my child- and she can’t even crawl yet! I wish I could have less anxiety about her, but I can’t.
The truth of the matter is that no one can guarantee their child’s safety 100% of the time. As they get older there is less and less that a parent can control. Soon she’ll be walking, crossing the street, going to school and meeting new people. All of this will be beyond my control. But as of right now, I have complete say over where she goes, what she does, and, most importantly, who knows her. I rue the day she is old enough to want her own social media page. I have no idea how I will handle it, but I have some time to figure it out.