KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The tragic events in Springfield have many parents concerned about how to keep their children safe. Reports that Hailey Owens, 10, was called over to a pick-up truck and then physically pulled inside should serve as a warning to others, child safety experts told FOX 4 News.
They say a 10-year-old child literally has no physical advantage when confronted by an adult. The National Center For Missing And Exploited Children says there never should be a legitimate reason for an adult in a vehicle to stop, roll down their window and talk with a child they don't know. That is a huge red flag.
Don't let someone you don't know get too close to you. It sometimes takes a moment to recognize the threat. But the best defense children may have is their ability to run away, yell and scream.
"Whenever you feel the 'uh-oh' alarm go off when something is not right," explained Craig Hill, a consultant and law enforcement trainer for the center. "A person approaching a child with a lost puppy, asking directions or a question, -- 'Can you show me something?' That's an 'uh-oh.' A child should immediately stop that conversation and go right back into school, go home or go somewhere to get away from that person and tell a trusted adult."
Self-defense expert Bob Thurman says kids between eight and 12 years old need to be aware of anything within eight feet of them. He calls that a child's 'safe zone.' If a child finds themselves within the grasp of an attacker, he says the best weapon they may have is their teeth. Bite as hard as you can or use your hands to gouge a tender spot like an eye. The idea is to inflict some pain and break free.
Many safety courses around the metro area teach self-defense. But usually you have to be at least 18 to participate. Being aware of what's around you at all times, even in your own backyard, is a key to staying safe.