As tales of abductions have become more frequent, parents are concerned and are seeking advice on how to keep children safe.
You may feel tempted to keep your children away from malls, stadiums and other busy places, but it is unrealistic to think we can keep our children housebound. However, there are several things we can do to ensure we keep children safe.
We chatted to several experts and have rounded up some basic reminders of ways we can be proactive to keep children safe:
- Talk to your children about child safety and use teachable moments and real life opportunities to practise what-if scenarios. Speak in a calm reassuring way. Have them practise saying “no” in a loud voice.
- Consider keeping a recent photograph of your child together with their fingerprints and a hair sample. (Do it yourself ID kits are available online.)
- Be aware of clothing, bags, personalised items or anything that carries your child’s name on it. A child is more likely to trust someone who knows her name.
- Teach children that if a situation feels wrong, it probably is. Let them know they should trust their instincts, and that they can tell you anything.
- Make sure your children can recite their name, address and your cellphone number, but teach them never to give this information to a stranger.
- Never leave your children alone in a public place or motor vehicle, even if it’s locked and switched off. If you need to run back up the aisle for that extra tin, take your child-in-trolley with you.
- Teach your child not to talk to anyone they don’t know, even if they are with you. Being safe is more important than being polite.
- Never allow children to use a public toilet alone.
- Teach young children how to identify somebody they can trust (perhaps a security guard or a mother with her own children) if they are separated from you in a public place.
- Decide on a meeting place in case of separation in a crowd. Encourage your child to stay in groups and not to wander off alone. A younger child who loses sight of you should stay where they are and not walk around looking for you.
- If you are going to a busy place consider writing your cellphone number in permanent marker on your child’s forearm in case you are separated.
- If your child is alone at home make sure he knows how to use the alarm system. Cancel home services (pool, plumbing, garden) if you can’t be there. Teach them not open the door for anyone.
- Teach your children how to dial 10111. A handy memory device for young children is pointing your forefinger at the base of your thumb. Your thumb is the first 1, your forefinger makes a 0, and your last three fingers are the three 1s at the end.
- Have your teenager check in with you at regular intervals, upon reaching their destination or whentheir plans change.
- Make sure cellphones are always fully charged and have sufficient airtime.
Explain the dangers of hitchhiking and advise them to stay alert in public, especially if they have a tendency to zone out with phones.
- Establish strict curfews for movies and parties.
The following organisations are assisting in the fight against abduction and human trafficking:
- Anti Human Trafficking Hotline: 0800 222 777
- Childline 24-hour Helpline: 116 (free on all networks) or 031-201 2059
- Missing Children South Africa: 072 647 7464
- Pink Ladies Missing Persons: Whatsapp 072 214 7439
- Childsafe: 021 685 5208 OR 021 685 0114