More than 80 children were abducted or kidnapped in the first nine months of 2016, with the age group at highest risk those in their late teens.

It is not known how many of the incidents are related to domestic disputes but experts say abductions by strangers are rare and "stranger danger" advice is outdated.

However, the figures follow a spate of incidents, particularly in West Auckland, where children have been approached by strangers attempting to entice them into their vehicles.

At least eight incidents have been reported since the start of November, including one in which an 11-year-old boy was abducted in Ranui on his way home from school, and sexually assaulted over a four-hour period.

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The boy was left traumatised by the assault, and police are still seeking a man in a grey van described by the boy as his attacker.

Statistics New Zealand figures show a total of 84 children, including 36 teenagers aged 15 to 19, 21 children aged 10 to 14, 12 children aged 5 to 9, and 15 pre-schoolers aged 0 to 4, were kidnapped in the 2016 year to September.

That's up on the same period in 2015, when 81 children were reported abducted or kidnapped.

Three more pre-school children were kidnapped or abducted in the first nine months of last year, compared to all of 2015. But the number of children in the 5 to 14 age group dropped slightly, with the 5 to 9 group halving from 24 in 2015, to 12 in the 2016 year to September.

Older teenagers remain the most likely to be abducted and kidnapped, with 48 cases in 2015, and 36 in the year to September 2016.

Parents have already been warned to be extra vigilant and ensure their children know what to do if approached by a stranger. Schools have also been warned.

In November, the Herald reported some concerned parents in West Auckland had begun using GPS tracking devices on their children, following the spate of abduction attempts in the area.

Post-Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) president Angela Roberts said schools work "really hard" to keep their pupils safe.

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There was a "difficult tension to manage" in making sure children were aware of the dangers, but not scared or fearful of walking by themselves.

"You want kids to be able to be free to move around independently and feel safe, whether they're male or female. They shouldn't be living in fear."

The key was "building resilient sensible kids", she said.

Official advice around the risk of abduction has changed since the 'Stranger Danger' narrative of the 80s. Now authorities have shifted the focus, saying abductions and kidnappings by strangers are rare.

Police discuss their search for a sexual predator in West Auckland who assaulted an 11-year-old boy.

Posted by nzherald.co.nz on Thursday, 17 November 2016

"Teaching children with an emphasis on potential abuse/abductions by people unknown to the child - sometimes referred to as 'stranger danger' - is an outdated, discredited and potentially dangerous concept that the New Zealand Police has steered away from since the late 1980s," police advisor Roland Hermans said.

"Concentrating on abuse by people not known to the child provides a false sense of security."

This often "makes it easier" for abusers known to the child, because children believe adults they know will not hurt them.

There may be certain situations when children need to approach people they don't know for help, Herman said.

"Where there is community concern after an incident involving people unknown to the child, police's advice is to ensure children know the behaviours to identify, avoid and report abusive behaviour no matter whether they come from a person unknown or known to the child," Herman said.

"Police's Keeping Ourselves Safe programme for schools takes this behaviour-based, rather than person-based, approach."

The investigation into the Ranui abduction and sexual assault case is "ongoing and inquiries are continuing", a police spokeswoman said.

TIMELINE:

December 12:

An 18-month-old child was reported missing from a Rotorua home overnight. He was found uninjured later that morning, and a 17-year-old was later arrested.

December 7: A man in a vehicle reportedly approached an intermediate school pupil in the Auckland suburb of Ponsonby.

November 30: A 17-year-old girl was followed by a dark-coloured ute in Henderson, while a intermediate-aged girl was reportedly asked to get in a man's car.

November 24: A man asked two 12-year-old boys walking home from school in Ranui to get into his ute.

November 23: A man made a suspicious approach to an 11-year-old girl while she waited for her school bus in West Auckland.

November 21: A man drove alongside two adolescent girls in Onerahi, Whangarei, and beckoned them into his car, asking them if they wanted a ride, while they walked to the bus stop on the way to school.

November 17: An 11-year-old boy was abducted and sexually assaulted in Ranui, west Auckland on his way home from school.

November 1: A man tried to force a 10-year-old boy into the boot of his Honda after stopping in the middle of a Whangarei street.