As Little Mr becomes increasingly aware of his surroundings and other people, I’ve been thinking about how we’re bringing him up to be a polite and sociable little boy. To most people we meet together, I encourage him to say hello and answer any questions that may be put to him and although I’m very aware that I don’t leave him on his own anywhere as to put him in a ‘stranger danger’ situation, the threat is still ever present whenever we go out.
If you’re a parent (or even if you’re not) the contents of a recent social experiment posted to YouTube may well disturb you beyond words. If you’ve always thought that telling your children NOT to go off with strangers is simple enough, and that they understand the importance of this rule, then it appears that you were wrong – very wrong!
In the video, which is shot in the US, a young man called Joe approaches a parent in a crowded park, and asks them if their child knows that they should not go anywhere with strangers. All of the parents in the video are convinced that their child would definitely not go off with anyone they don’t know. Joe then asks permission to approach the child. Simply by speaking playfully, introducing his puppy, within seconds he is able to hold the child’s hand and walk quickly, with no fuss at all, straight out of the busy playground. It’s possible that each child had seen this stranger talk to their mum, but even so they forget everything that they have been told. Without hesitation, they leave the safe place they were in with someone they have never seen before.
If you’re saying to yourself ‘Well, this is a US video, things are different in the UK’ then the 2014 UK statistics for child kidnapping and abduction would indicate otherwise. Both abduction and kidnapping were up fairly sharply in 2014 from 2013.
While you’re digesting that rather uncomfortable piece of information, here’s another: on average, only one in five abductions is committed by a stranger. So what – and how – do you teach your children about strangers and the difference between ‘safe stranger’ and ‘danger’? If the children in this video definitely had seen Joe having a short chat with their mum, how do you think they would view Joe? Would he be a ‘friend’ because he was talking to mummy? Should children be taught that all people they don’t know could be a danger to them? That would almost certainly give them a twisted view of the world.
There’s a few good websites that offer tips on important topics such as:
– how to talk to your child about the risks that some people might present;
– how to avoid and spot dangerous places and situations;
– how to teach them about the safety that crowds can offer;
– how to find ‘good’ strangers like police, firemen and other trustworthy people when they feel unsafe or unsure of their circumstances.
For five simple rules, you could do a lot worse than read ‘Five stay safe tricks to teach your kids’. If you’re not already familiar with tip three – using a password to identify a ‘safe adult’ – this is an idea that has been deservedly been doing the rounds on Facebook recently.
The password technique
The password technique is a simple but effective strategy that requires kids to remember only one, very important, thing – the ‘special word’ that only mummy, daddy and close family know. If someone they don’t know wants them to come with them, they should have the password to show that they have the permission of a parent to say what they’re saying. It removes the need to put kids in a dilemma and decide whether they should do what they are told just because it’s an adult telling them, or whether they should go and find another adult to ask if what they are being asked to do is OK.
Although Little Mr is still a little too young to understand the password technique, it’s probably a good idea to remind him when out at the park and perhaps in the supermarket that unless Mommy and Daddy say it’s okay, people we don’t know are strangers and we don’t talk to them.
This post is written in collaboration with Sunny D who have recently launched their new ‘Tips and Advice’ section for families. My favourite latest posts include ‘2015 Best Family Festivals’ and ‘June Fun Family Activities’.