Kidnapping Myths That Are Hard to Unlearn


There are few forces in the world stronger than a parent’s desire to keep their child safe. It’s easy to see why parents are so protective of their kids these days: kidnapping rates are going up because it’s easier than ever for strangers to target your kids on the internet. Right?

Well, not exactly. In fact, studies have suggested that kidnapping rates are actually falling, and that kidnapping by strangers is actually the least likely kind of kidnapping. While that might sound counterintuitive, it’s the truth! Here are some of the most pervasive kidnapping myths that are hard to unlearn.

Parental Kidnapping

The most common type of child kidnapping is parental kidnapping. This is when one of the child’s parents holds them against the wishes of the other parent. In 2010, there were around 60,000 of these such cases, making up the vast majority of all child kidnapping cases.

However, kidnapping by strangers remains the most commonly-depicted form of kidnapping in fiction and crime warnings. Reasons for this are complicated, but they can be boiled down to a few simple misconceptions. The first is that people don’t want to think of those close to them as people who could hurt their children. The second is that it’s much easier to present a “nightmare scenario” for the average person where a faceless stranger takes their child.

Kidnappings Aren’t on the Rise

This myth is extremely pervasive, and it’s actually part of a larger pattern. Depending on the types of news people consume, they can often think that crime, in general, is on the rise, even when it’s either stable or falling. Confirmation bias often is at play here. This is a type of bias where single incidents of a feared outcome can lend someone the perception that the outcome is common.

For instance, if someone has the ill fortune to see two muggings in one day, they may have the impression that muggings are on the rise. However, the reality could be that they were simply witnessing the only two muggings to take place that day.

The Internet Hasn’t Made Things Easier

The other myth, that the internet has made it easier than ever to kidnap children, is also untrue. If anything, studies suggest that the internet age has probably made it harder than ever for kidnappers to take children.

The reason? Because tracking criminals’ activity is easier than ever with internet-based tools. People who behave badly on the internet leave a trail that the authorities can trace, leading to the criminal being caught.