Code words aren’t just fun and games—they can actually save your kid’s life. In Florida, a recent kidnapping attempt is a stark reminder that kids are at risk wherever they are, but that there’s a way to prepare them for the unthinkable. When a 10-year-old girl was approached by a stranger, promising to be a friend of her mother’s and offering candy and ice cream, the young girl asked the stranger for a code word. When he couldn’t provide it, she knew to run away—and note details about his appearance and vehicle.
The FBI has encouraged the code word approach for decades and suggests coming up with a simple word or phrase that’s easy for your kids to remember (for example, the name of a pet or toy). Tell your kids that if the stranger is really a friend of the family, they’ll know the code word and if not, to run away. The FBI also has safety tips you can incorporate into your discussion.
In addition to a verbal code word, you should also have a code word for texting. If your kids are in an uncomfortable situation or feeling pressured by their peers and want to leave, come up with a secret code they can text. In a viral post, one family taught their kids to text “X” so the parents would know to call and provide an excuse, saying they’re on their way to pick up their child immediately.
Having a code word can make a huge difference if your kids are faced with a scary or uncomfortable situation, no matter their age. For more tips, download the Safety Central app from The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. You can also check out the Digital Child ID Kit and see posters for missing children in your area.