Keeping kids safe from the monsters among us

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As a free society, we probably can’t stop the monstrous predator any more than we can stop the random terrorist strike. Remember the story of Polly Klaas? She was sleeping in her bedroom with two little friends when a man broke into the room, put pillowcases over her friends’ heads, then carried Polly away and murdered her. Such evil intent seems biblical in its power, and one cannot imagine stopping a man who is prepared to break into a house and steal a child with her parents sleeping nearby.

Still, that doesn’t mean we can’t do a better job of educating and protecting our kids, and also alerting the public to protect our village of children. All the “good touch, bad touch” teaching is fine, but children of 5 and 6 don’t feel empowered to challenge authority. It can’t be their responsibility to keep themselves safe. Even older children fall victim to manipulative predators who make child abuse their life’s work.

I think we need to watch our children more vigilantly and to be more proactive in evaluating the people in their day-to-day lives. I want to be careful not to suggest blame because the circumstances of these events are random and individual. But we need to have eyes on children younger than 10. I don’t think they should be allowed to ride their bikes off the street or enter a neighbor’s house or walk out of sight in a park. Many kidnapped children are snatched within blocks of their homes. Most kids will be safe — and lucky — nearly 100 percent of the time, but vigilance is the seat belt of responsible parenting.

If I were raising kids today, I would not allow my elementary school child to walk to school alone. My older children would be taught never, ever to take a ride with a stranger or even an acquaintance without letting me know. This lesson must be reinforced, because the price of poor judgment is unthinkable.

Tragically, in the Cleveland case, all three girls got into the suspect’s car willingly.
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