I love this quote from security expert Bruce Schneier:
Remember, if it’s in the news don’t worry about it. The
very definition of news is “something that almost never
happens.” When something is so common that it’s no longer
news — car crashes, domestic violence — that’s when you
should worry about it.
[EDIT: It goes on to compare to a non-abduction story...]
In summary, a toddler got separated from her caregivers and wandered off, where a passerby saw her. Seeing no one else around, his first instinct was to scoop her up and take her with him. But he decided that that was a big risk to himself — what would people think? — and continued on, reporting it later.
The girl then fell in a pond and drowned.
So beware implementing some of the ideas presented here as things you shouldn't fear. Because not everyone will agree with you, and those other people can make your life very difficult.
Even nows my cousin is extremely paranoid about her daughter. At 14, this girl wasn't even allowed to read Twilight; a tragedy, because the girl otherwise refuses to read.
They might lose in court but a lot of the damage is already done by then.
I personally feel that a lot parents have been over-protective and irrational lately not because they have started loving or caring for their children more, but because they are afraid of looking like a "bad parent" while this whole media "child threat" frenzy is going on. I am not a parent so this is totally speculative, I have read not studies or haven't done any research on this.
You also nailed the real issue on the head - it's not that we don't need some sort of child protection services; it's that "you are at their mercy with little to no oversight".
Every attempt you make to establish your rights will lead you further down the path of their goal. Take heed from the stories above and you will see how it works.
And these are just the cases that make the news
Second, worry about my ability to distinguish real dangers from fake makes me avoid many sources of news. To get a sense of what dangers are actually real, I pay attention to the lives of people I know and read my local police log occasionally. I also try to learn as little about people who get into the news for doing stupid/petty things as possible - no need to give them encouragement.
Sadly, the paranoia seems to be out of control. So much so that I take the commenter below ("a couple creepy incidents") with a grain of salt. Was it really something creepy or are kids taught to overreact when a stranger so much as says hello and the story got exaggerated in the telling?
It's ridiculous what I've seen parents describe as creepy. They just cannot get the image of a child predator out of their heads.
- We opened the door when somebody rang the doorbell we were home alone
- We used to go around town to ask people if we could earn some money by doing stuff in their house or garden
- When my bike was broken a stranger drove me home with his car
To the parents who are freaked out by their kids talking to a stranger the above things may sound mind boggling. A part of this is a cultural difference of seeing kids as sexual objects. Who lives somewhere where people would find it strange if a dad holds hands / hugs / kisses / bathes with his young daughter? I read a story where a dad was arrested for holding hands with his daughter.
I know just the other day I watched a man in his late 30s/early 40s walk out of a supermarket with a 12-14yo girl who was clearly not his biological child (completely different ethnicity) and get into a car. I couldn't help but be just the slightest bit suspicious. I may have been right, I may have been wrong, but if it was a woman with a 12-14yo girl OR boy, not a single eyebrow would raise.
I'm a 30 year old male with a scruffy not-really-a-beard and mostly t-shirts in my wardrobe. When I go out alone, I can't so much as stand in the same grocery aisle as a child without getting suspicious looks from parents and store employees. It's much worse at the swimming pool or beach.
When I have my baby with me, it's the opposite. Kids crowd around me; parents strike up conversations. Mothers are happy to read a book while their daughters talk to me or swim around me at the pool. It suddenly makes sense to people why I haven't shaved in 3 days and wear t-shirts.
They go from thinking Chris Hansen should tell me to "have a seat right over there" to thinking I'm just like Mr. Rogers. I'm still the same person, but the perceived threat level is completely different based on whether or not my kid is with me.
"What if" they're dangerous? Come on. The average stranger is far more likely to try to hurt me than a kid.  Life's too short to think that way.
Ask most folks if they would be able to tell if their child is depressed or suicidal and you'll get a variation of "Of course I'd know if my child was suicidal" or "My child isn't depressed!"
Ask then if they could tell if a school sniper is going to target their school or if a terrorist attack was going to happen. You won't find a similar confidence in the detectability of the outcome.
And that produces fear.
Unfortunately, car accidents, abuse, and suicide are in fact more prevalent because they have false detectability. The very same human factors that contribute to people answering with confidence about their child's emotional or mental state also cause us to overlook subtle warning signs.
That's in part why people so often express surprise when there is a suicide attempt or familial abuse. You don't often hear parents or relatives say "yeah, I saw that coming." It's more often "Johnny tried to kill himself? What a shame, I would not have seen that coming , he was always such a bright/happy/etc child".
There are also things I can do things about and things I can't, and that impacts what I worry about. I can't control a drunk that decides to cross four lanes of traffic, so beyond driving defensively, I don't worry about that.
On the other hand, I can teach my kids simple things in a way that doesn't have to panic them to keep them safe from unlikely chance they run into "stranger danger". We live in a low crime area, yet there have been a couple of very creepy incidents involving adults following/bother kids walking home from school.
I do wonder about where they got that list, though. I've never heard a single parent I know (and I know a lot of parents) who has said "I sure Johnny makes it home from school today and that the snipers don't get him." WTF?
Drivers aged 16-19 have auto fatality rates four times higher than other drivers. That's not because they are magnets for middle aged drunk drivers.
1 in 4 teens killed in auto accidents were under the influence of alcohol.
Children are more likely to be molested by family members and friends of the family than by strangers. They are also more likely to die by stepping into the car of a friend than by being hit while driving alone. It's important to instill in your children the skills necessary to deal with the actual threats they are likely to encounter. Indeed, as a ridiculous example, if you told your children that they are not allowed to ride with friends but they are free to hitch-hike with random adult strangers chances are they'd actually be safer.
Yes, teenage drivers are scary. I'm scared every time my son backs out of the driveway (for him and everybody on the sidewalks). We have laws here that prohibit a new driver from having friends in the car without parents, which I think is great. I wish there was more we could do to make people safer and greatly applaud companies like Mercedes who are using technology to help with that.
However, I won't cripple myself or my kids by living for the worst case. I will try to teach and coerce so they worst cases won't happen, but I refuse to be a helicopter.
You can control that risk in a vague, statistical fashion just by driving around less. Of course, you have to cost-benefit that against certain lifestyle choices, but there are actual tradeoffs that would be affected by this. For instance, the actual risk of a child getting abducted on public transit is probably a lot less than the risk of the child getting killed in a car accident, but most parents ignore the car accident risk and drive their kids around instead of letting them take the bus/train/subway/monorail.
 Trains in particular, but even buses are likely safer--they're driven by professionals who tend to drive more slowly and conservatively. They also have a higher profile so other vehicles are more likely to see them, and on many buses, passengers are elevated above bumper height. It seems like an ordeal to get the statistics on buses together, though, so if it makes it more convenient for you to understand my point, you can just pretend I didn't mention anything about buses.
The other idea is that she means "school shootings" instead of snipers specifically.
I'm told it's rather helpful for POWs.
You're asking the vast majority of reasonably conscientious parents at large. What they "worry about" is the list of risks which they have not found a practical way to mitigate.
They're not being asked about how they think other people's kids might be killed, which would make comparing the two lists a valid exercise.
So these are heartening results. If parents are "worrying" about their kids dying by gunshot instead of actually locking up their handguns, you have a major problem.
Surely the gun-toting variety wouldn't be that common, even in the US?
Also, "Child occupants seated in the center had an injury risk 43% less than children seated in either of the rear outboard positions."
Thus parents also worry about what other adults think of them.
As far as I know they never worried too much about me getting shot by a sniper.