Keep Children Safe While Shopping and Traveling

Important Tips from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Young mom choosing clothes with toddler girl
images by Tang Ming Tung/Moment/Getty Images

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has issued child safety tips for parents to keep children safer while shopping and traveling.

The NCMEC urges parents to talk with children about safety before heading out to a busy shopping mall or boarding a plane, train, or bus this holiday season. Crowds are greater this time of year, the agency warns, and children may easily become separated from their parents, causing confusion and fear.

If that should happen, parents need a plan and children should know what to do.

"Unfortunately many adults and children don't know what to do if they lose each other in a public place or are faced with other unsafe situations," said NCMEC President and CEO Ernie Allen. "That's why the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is offering advice on how to remain safe and avoid panic and potential dangers."

Allen said that NCMEC urges parents to do the following:


  • Keep children with you at all times while shopping.
  • Accompany and supervise children in public facilities, including restrooms.
  • Have a plan in case you become separated, including a pre-designated spot to meet.
  • Teach children to look for people who can help, such as a uniformed security officer, salesperson or mother with children.
  • Remind children to remain in the area where they become separated.
  • Turn shopping trips into opportunities to practice safe shopping skills.


    • Dress children in clothing that displays their first or last names, prompting unwelcome attention from people looking for an opportunity to start a conversation with your child.
    • Leave children in toy stores or public facilities expecting supervision from store personnel.
    • Go shopping or attend a public event with a child if you feel you're going to be distracted. Make other arrangements for child care ahead of time.
    • Allow younger children to shop on their own to purchase surprise gifts for friends or family members.
    • Drop off older children at a mall or public place without agreeing on a clear plan for picking them up, including: where, what time, and what to do in case of a change in plans.

    Other Safety Tips

    If your child is flying or riding a train or bus alone this holiday season, NCMEC urges parents to remember the following travel safety tips:

    • When you make reservations for your child, specify that the child will be traveling alone.
    • Whenever possible, book a non-stop flight or direct route. Avoid booking the last flight of the day.
    • Plan to visit the airport, train or bus terminal prior to departure.
    • Let your child know what to expect, so the experience will not be so intimidating.
    • In case of delay or cancellation, remain at the station or gate until the train, plane or bus departs.
    • Make sure children travel with proper identification and parents or guardian contact information.
    • Always have a back-up plan for the person or people meeting the plane at the destination, in case they are delayed.
    • Encourage children not to become too friendly with other passengers or to reveal any personal information.

    Additional safety tips can be found at

    The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children was established by Congress in 1984, the organization has operated the toll-free 24-hour national missing children's hotline which has handled more than 2.3 million calls. It has assisted law enforcement in the recovery of more than 132,300 children. The organization's CyberTipline has handled more than 639,800 reports of child sexual exploitation and its Child Victim Identification Program has reviewed and analyzed more than 18,790,000 child pornography images and videos. The organization works in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice's office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. To learn more about NCMEC, call its toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-THE-LOST.

    Source: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

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