Recent reports regarding adults approaching children at the bus stops raises fear and caution for parents.
It is not enough that children are at risk of getting hit by vehicles or by the bus at a bus stop. Now, children also have to worry about whether someone might attempt to abduct them.
What can parents do to protect their children? Many parents cannot be at the bus stop every day to make sure their children load safely on the bus without getting approached by a stranger.
“Parent pooling” is a definite possibility – having parents take turns waiting at the bus stop, not only with their own children, but also with other parents’ children. The other possibility is when high school kids can help out at the bus stop before leaving to drive to school.
The Florida Department of Transportation provided some tips for parents and they are now here to share with local parents:
- Arrive on time at the bus stop.
- Make sure your child stands at least 10 feet (five giant steps) from the road while waiting.
- Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before boarding and exiting.
- Take a seat right away and remain seated facing forward.
- Secure all belongings in a zipped backpack.
- Wear bright, contrasting clothing colors.
- When exiting the bus, look to the right.
- NEVER walk behind the bus!
Although these are wonderful tips to help children when waiting for the bus or getting on the bus, they do not provide a great amount of detail for safety while waiting for the bus.
Some other tips to consider to help your children avoid stranger danger when getting on and off the bus:
- Never speak to strangers at the bus stop
- Wait at the bus stop in groups
- Walk to the bus stop with a trusted adult or parent
- Never get in the car with a stranger
- If a stranger tries to approach the child, tell your child(ren) to go straight home and tell a parent
- Be a vigilant parent
- Teach your children that abductors are not always strangers
- Work with your child to create a “safe” walking plan
- Create “safe houses” that your child can go to in the case they do run into danger
- Avoid having your child wear clothing or items that have their names on them
There are also different ways to teach your child what to do if someone does attempt to abduct them. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) points out to stress to children that an abductor is not alway7s a stranger and children must understand this. Instead, NCMEC stresses to teach children to be more cautious of situations or actions. NCMEC provides a list of generic steps to take to minimize your child’s chances of being abducted by a family member, family friend or stranger:
- Her full name, address, including city, state and zip code; phone number, including area code; parents’ names, work addresses, and phone numbers.
- How to use both a push button and rotary-dial telephone.
- How to make an emergency call to you or for help from a pay phone.
- How to make a long distance call (both directly to you using the area code, and by dialing “0” for the operator).
- Never tell anyone over the phone that she is home alone, and NEVER open the door to strangers when she is home alone.
- Never to go into anyone’s home without your permission. Children should learn whose homes they are allowed to enter.
- Never to look for you if she becomes separated from you while shopping or in a public place. Instead, to go to the nearest checkout counter, security office, or lost and found, and tell the person in charge that she has lost his mom or dad and needs help in finding them. And, she should never go to a parking lot without you.
- Walk and play with others and to use the buddy system. If your child walks to school, have her walk with other children. A child is most vulnerable when alone.
- Adults do not usually ask children for directions or help, but should be asking other adults. If someone in a car should stop to ask for directions, they should not go near the car.
- If someone is following her on foot or in a car, to go to a place where there are other people–to a neighbor’s home or into a store, for instance–and ask for help. She should not go near the car to talk to anyone inside and should not try to hide behind bushes.
- No one should ask her to look for a “lost puppy” or tell her that either of her parents is in trouble and that he will take her to mom or dad.
- To never go near a car with someone in it or to get into a car without your permission. Your child should learn in whose car he is allowed to ride. Warn your child that someone might try to lure him into a car by claiming you said to pick him up; tell him never to obey such instructions. Instead, he should go back to the school for help. Share a code word with your child known only among family members. Stress to your child that anyone offering a ride unexpectedly–even a family friend-will have been given the code word in advance.
- To never to tell anyone over the phone that she is home alone.
- To never to answer the door when home alone. Remind your child to talk through a door or window to anyone delivering a package, and to tell the person to leave the package at the door. Teach your child how to call your community’s emergency assistance number (often 911). Make sure he knows a neighbor to call if someone tries to get into the house or if there is any kind of emergency.
- To tell you if any adult asks her to keep a “secret.”
- To tell you if someone offers him gifts, money, drugs, or wants to take his picture.
- That no one should touch her in any part of her body covered by a bathing suit. She should not touch anyone in those areas either. Explain to her that the body is special and private.
- To yell, “This is not my parent!” if someone tries to take her away.
- To ask your permission to leave the yard or to go to a neighbor’s house. Older children should phone home to tell you where they are, especially if they change locations.
- To never hitch hike or get a ride with anyone, unless you have told him it is okay to accept the ride.
- To come home before dark.
- To avoid dark or abandoned places.
- To avoid adults who are waiting around a playground–particularly an adult who wants to play with them and their friends.
- To ask anyone who drives him anywhere, not to leave him alone in the car–but if he is alone in a car, to put up the windows, leaving a “finger” space between the window glass and the rim, and to lock the doors and stay near the car horn. If a stranger approaches the car, he should blow the horn until help arrives.
- That she has the right to say, ” NO” to anyone who tries to take her somewhere, touches her, or makes her feel uncomfortable in any way.
Lastly, NCMEC wants parents to teach their children the following:
- Notify you before leaving for the bus stop
- Never go into a house unless your have given your child permission to use the house as a “Safe House”; tell you if they feel scared, uncomfortable or confused about waiting for the school bus
- Tell the school bus driver if they are approached while waiting at the bus stop
- Tell the school bus ramp administrators if they are approached while waiting at the bus stop
- That NOISE is his/her best defense – yell, scream, shout, scatter books and belongings if they are being forced into a car – things to scream, for instance, could be, “I don’t know you” or “You’re not my mom/dad”
- Move away from any vehicle that pulls up to the bus stop
- Never accept a ride to school if they are waiting at the bus stop
- Follow the Safe Walking Plan and never to use shortcuts through empty parks, alleys, fields, etc.; avoid empty buildings and isolated areas
- Run home or to a designated safe house if they are close to home and approached while walking to the bus stop
- Write a license plate number in the dirt if nothing else is available and they are safely away from danger