There has been a heated debate over the use of personalized family bumper stickers, window decals, and other personalized merchandise. In many areas, it's become all the rage to get a personalized window sticker for the car that lists all the members of ones family alongside little stick figures, including the names of the kids. Some even list the children's ages. Other parents use personalized return address labels that list the members of the family. Such displays are done as a way to show family pride. But wait...many safety advocates have come out against such things, saying that advertising your family or your children's names in such a manner is like putting a target on their backs. You might as well advertise them to kidnappers and molesters with a sign that says "come get me," or so they say. Are they right?
We hate to go against our brethren in arms and contradict the advocacy trends, but we must cry foul on this one. It's one of those areas where an overactive imagination and hyper inflated fears lead to bogus conclusions. The reason for advocating against personalization on things such as a child's backpack or clothing or lunchbox is because some abductions are crimes of opportunity. A potential abductor targets a lone child walking home from school, and in such cases, knowing their name can be an advantage. The chances of this ever mattering are remote, but why take the risk if it isn't necessary, right?
Here's an area where a different situation renders this common advice completely irrelevant. Unless you're going to be leaving your child alone in the car while you shop, (in which case they have much bigger safety issues to worry about) the crime of opportunity setting doesn't apply. Unlike a backpack, a car is something that the family drives around in together, and something that would be tethered to the child's parents or other caretakers. The lone-child element and crime of opportunity is removed. As far as the likelihood of someone stalking your family or targeting your children because of names on a bumper sticker or address label, this is an imaginary fear. It's not at all hard to get a child's name in about a thousand other methods. I could walk around the grocery store and get you the names of just about every child in there. Just wait for the first "Jessie, put that back" or listen for siblings talking amongst one another. Or heck, just smile big and ask the child's name in front of their parents while in line at the checkout counter. The bottom line: it's not as though your child's name or identity is some guarded secret that nobody can find out unless you advertise it. The only time it will ever play a role in abduction is if a stranger happens upon your child alone in the right place and time, and can befriend them easier because of the big name tag. This is why it's not a good idea for your child's name to be engraved across the back of their backpack or on the front of their shirt. In all other situations, it matters not in the least, and a bumper sticker depicting your family doesn't make it any easier to snatch a child.
So go ahead, show your family pride. It doesn't jeopardize your children's safety in the least.
Visit www.keepyourchildsafe.org for more safety information.