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How to talk to your child about abduction
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A small Minnesota town decided to leave its porch lights on Thursday night to honor a child who has been missing for 26 years. - photo by Herb Scribner
Town members of St. Joseph, Minnesota, left their porch lights on Thursday night to honor Jacob Wetterling, an 11-year-old boy who disappeared from the town 26 years ago, according to KSTP.

The 11-year-old disappeared after being taken by a masked man, who approached Wetterling, his brother and a friend, KSTP reported.

Wetterling's disappearance is one of the most recognizable child-abduction cases in Minnesota, KSTP reported.

This isnt the first time the town has sought ways to honor the missing boy. Last year, town authorities posted six billboards throughout Minnesota honoring Wetterling and asked citizens to provide any details they might have had on the youngsters disappearance, according to CBS Minnesota. No new developments came from the billboard campaign.

We know that somebody out there has information, John Ryan, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told CBS Minnesota in 2014.

This year, in addition to turning a porch light on, authorities are encouraging parents to talk with their children about how to stay safe from abduction, CBS Minnesota reported.

We have learned that when good people pull together for children, amazing things happen, Jacobs mother, Patty Wetterling, said in a statement. We ask for that commitment once again.

More than 800,000 children go missing every year, according to ABC News. But that number may just be an estimate since many missing child cases go unreported.

In fact, according to the NCMEC, there were more than 460,000 missing child cases reported to the FBI in both 2014 and 2013.

This number represents reports of missing children, according to NCMEC. That means if a child runs away multiple times in a year, each instance would be entered into NCIC separately and counted in the yearly total. Likewise, if an entry is withdrawn and amended or updated, that would also be reflected in the total.

Of those 460,000 cases, 84 percent were of children who ran away from home, and 12 percent were from abductions by family members, the NCMEC reported. Only 1 percent of children were abducted by nonfamily members, NCMEC reported.

Parents can keep their child from being abducted by simply talking to him or her about stranger danger and abductions, experts say, according to the New York Daily News. But its important that parents try not to scare their children with the realities of abduction.

You dont want to reveal more than they are ready to hear, child psychology expert Dr. Lawrence Balter told the Daily News. Start where they are. Dont overwhelm them with things they arent emotionally ready for.

That is to say, dont warn them about real-life scenarios and scary stories. Rather, focus on strategy what to do and where to go if a stranger approaches them alone, according to the Daily News.

Balter told the Daily News that parents should inform their children of red flags signals that a stranger they meet may be more nefarious than they appear, like when strangers ask for help with finding something, the Daily News reported.

Its also important for parents to tell their children where they can go when theyre in trouble, experts told the Daily News.

Tell them what to do in case something happens, child safety expert Debra Holtzman told the Daily News. If they get lost, places they can go: a police station, a firehouse or a library. Or ask a mom with kids for help.

Parenting and education expert Dr. Gail Gross offered some specific strategies children can use to avoid abduction in a piece for The Huffington Post. One of those tips includes The Velcro Technique where children latch onto anything nearby to avoid being taken, Gross wrote.

Make like Velcro: Grab and hold on to something and do not let go, she wrote. Grab a tree, grab a bike, grab a stop sign post, or even grab a different adult because another adult is not usually involved in an abduction. This makes it harder to disengage a child in an attempted abduction.

Theres also the Windmill technique or swimming technique, where children rotate their arms to prevent a stranger from getting a good grip on them.

Gross also wrote that children should try to make a lot of noise to warrant attention from nearby people.

But above all else, Gross suggests parents come up with a family plan something children can do if they ever find themselves in a dangerous scenario that can be practiced and perfected over time.

Remember, above all else, safety first," Gross wrote. "Prevention is the key. Develop a family plan of action for emergency and crisis situation, and practice and rehearse them with your children through role-modeling and role-playing. Teach your children the rules, and give them the confidence they need to be able to follow through on the escape techniques outlined above. If they are involved and invested, children are more likely to remember and take action if someone tries to abduct them. We have to empower our kids to help keep them safe.

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