Thank Goodness for NCMEC and the Incredible People Who Work There!
On a recent trip to Washington DC, I was blessed with the opportunity to engage with some of the dedicated and brilliant people who work at NCMEC. The Analysts and Case Managers are encyclopedias of information and a treasure trove of resources. These are people who are up in the middle of the night when they get a lead or a tip. They are committed to doing whatever it takes to bring every child home.
“As the nation’s clearinghouse and comprehensive reporting center for all issues related to the prevention of and recovery from child victimization, NCMEC leads the fight against abduction, abuse, and exploitation – because every child deserves a safe childhood.
Hope is why we’re here.”
Since 1998, NCMEC has operated the CyberTipline, a place where the public and electronic service providers can report suspected online and offline child sexual exploitation. The millions of reports made each year uniquely situate NCMEC to identify trends and create prevention resources to address the evolving needs of kids and teens online.
NCMEC has Two Main Prevention Programs
KidSmartz is a child safety program that educates families about preventing abduction and empowers kids in grades K-5 to practice safer behaviors. This program offers resources to help parents, caregivers, and teachers protect kids by teaching and practicing the 4 Rules of Personal Safety using tips, printable activities, quizzes, articles, music, videos, and more.
NetSmartz is NCMEC’s online safety education program. It provides age-appropriate videos and activities to help teach children be safer online with the goal of helping children to become more aware of potential online risks and empowering them to help prevent victimization by making safer choices on- and offline. This information spans a wider age range including kids who are in middle and highschool.
Advice for Parents from a Senior Analyst
I asked Rachel Dellinger, who has worked with NCMEC for 4 and a half years, what top three tips she would tell parents about keeping their kids safe. She gave me four!
Tips for Parents:
- No phones in bathrooms! Bathrooms are not a place for photos, whether your child is getting potty trained, is mostly blocked by a shower curtain, towel, etc. The idea is to make sure they know that if their pants are down, there should be no camera around, no photos. We want to teach our kids to be comfortable with photos when they are dressed, not with their clothes off. If they grow up with us doing it, why shouldn’t they?
- Phones need to go away at night. All family phones get plugged in on the kitchen counter, in the office, etc. The bedroom is not a place for the phone at night when the kids are alone.
- She recommends random searches of your child’s phone. Kids are smart. They shouldn’t have passwords that you don’t know. You are paying for their phone, right? So it is still your property. You are looking for concerning behavior, dangerous behavior, conversations that look “off”. She recommends that you look through all the threads of their various messages and apps.
- Share true stories about real kids doing dangerous things and what the unimagined consequences are. You can find stories and video on the NCMEC website in the education area.
Videos for Older Kids
For parents of middle school and high schoolers, for sure check out the video page. I especially recommend “Julie’s Journey” and “Survivor Diaries”. These are true stories told by real kids who want to keep other kids from having to go through what they went through.
Get Your Kiddos into the ID System
“FBI Child ID” is an app allowing you to store all your child’s information in one place. You can keep the information and photos updated and use it should your child ever go missing, to take with you when you travel, etc. It’s recommended by the FBI. Your child’s information is not available to them, but you can share it easily from the app if you ever need to. This app doesn’t have the best ratings, but you can do the exact same thing on paper. Recommendation: Keep it safe and keep it handy. Take it with you when you travel. NCMEC has an ID kit you can download.