With the news coverage of the abduction and long-term captivity of three girls in Cleveland, many parents are keeping an extra-close eye on their children while the news media warn kids about the dangers of kidnapping.
Time magazine, among many news outlets, emphasized the threat of stranger kidnappings and offered tips for kids and adults on how to avoid abduction. In a story about a smartphone app to thwart kidnappings, one TechHive writer stated, "Although we'd like to think otherwise, women are still abducted on a daily basis."
Unfortunately, information on kidnapping prevention rarely tells children what to do in case of the most common type of abduction. It may also be needlessly scaring children and parents by mischaracterizing the majority of child abductions.
PHOTOS: Long-Lost and Found: Missing People Who Were Found
As discussed in my book Media Mythmakers: How Journalists, Activists, and Advertisers Mislead Us, "While the term 'missing child' may conjure up visions of malevolent, trench-coated men luring children into their cars with candy or Pokémon cards, the reality is much different. The vast majority of 'missing' children are taken by family members, often when one divorced parent absconds with a child during legally sanctioned visitation. The child may not be where he morally or legally should be, but it is a far cry from being in a dangerous stranger's clutches. This puts the term 'missing' in a whole new light, since at least one parent knew exactly where the child was. 'Missing,' then, is used as more of a legal word regarding the child's status than a descriptive one designating the child's whereabouts."