When it comes to keeping our kids safe, it’s helpful to know the facts. Here’s the truth about the dangers today’s children face, from kidnapping to online predators.
The most comprehensive recent study to date, conducted by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, found that:
#1. 797,500 children under the age of 18 were reported missing over a one-year period.
#2. This averages out to 2,185 children reported missing every day.
#3. 203,900 of these children were abducted by family members; 58,200 children were abducted by non-family members.
#4. 115 of these children were the victims of what’s known as “stereotypical” kidnapping—where a stranger (or a very loose acquaintance) abducts the child, takes them 50+ miles away, holds the child captive overnight, and either 1) demands ransom, 2) plans to keep the child without returning it, or 3) kills the child.
#5. Since the 1990s, there has been a significant rise in the number of cases of sexual exploitation of children in the United States, according to a recent Congressional report.
#6. There were 82.8% more child pornography cases in 2006 than in 1994.
#7. The number of documented complaints of online enticement of children made to the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces went up 230% from 2004 to 2008.
#8. The ICAC Task Forces also saw more than a 1,000% increase in complaints of child sex trafficking over that same period.
#9. Since its launch in 1998, the CyberTipline has gotten over 2.5 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation (figure as of June 2014).
#10. It’s estimated that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys may be victims or sexual predators or sexual abuse by the time they reach adulthood.
#11. Since its creation in 2002, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) Child Victim Identification Program has reviewed over 115 million images of child pornography (figure as of June 2014).
#12. It’s estimated that as many as 1 in 7 runaways reported to the NCEMC in the year 2013 may also have been victims of sex trafficking.
#13. As many as 67% of these victims were in foster care or in the care of social services at the time they ran away.
#14. Teens and preteens are using the Web frequently—93% of kids ages 12-17 are online.
#15. Young kids are also online in big numbers—80% of children 5 years and up use the Internet at least once per week.
#16. Approximately 1 in 25 children ages 10-17 will receive a sexual solicitation online. This includes predators who want to meet them somewhere; call them on the phone, or send them gifts.
#17. In this same age bracket, 34% of children will be exposed to unwanted sexual material online in some way, shape or form.
#18. Only 27% of children who view this unwanted sexual material will tell a parent or guardian—unless the material is particularly upsetting, in which case to 42% will bring it to an adult’s attention.
#19. A surprising 4% of teens ages 12-17 who own a cell phone admit to sending sexually suggestive messages (including nude or semi-nude images) to others by text message.
#20. An even more surprising 15% of teens ages 12-17 who own a cell phone report receiving sexually suggestive messages (including nude or semi-nude images) from someone they know by text.
What can you do with this shocking information?
- Practice safety with your family. Teach your children about the myths and realities around “Stranger Danger,” including how to recognize “safer strangers” like police officers. (Read that article for a full primer.)
- Stay connected though an AlertGPS device, which allows your child to send an SOS signal to your Circle of Trust in case of emergency, and sends you instant alerts if your child leaves a “safe zone,” rides in a speeding car, or encounters other dangerous situations.
- Wait until your children are older before allowing them to have a cellular phone, and know which websites they’re browsing.
- Know what steps to take the moment you discover your child is missing.