By Sam Hornby
Recently, a video of a social experiment popped up on my Facebook news feed the other day and to be honest it terrified me. The video showed a gentleman, holding a fluffy white puppy, asking parents what their child would do if approached by stranger. Most parents said their child would run straight back to them. He then asked whether or not the child would do the same if the stranger had a puppy, the parents said they would still run back. He then tested the theory. He approached the children, started talking to them about the puppy, told them the puppies name and the children talked to him, stroking the puppy. He then said that he had more puppies at his house and would they like to go and see them. The children were absolutely gripped by the cute fluffy puppy belonging to the man. The parents looked on, absolutely shocked when their child took the man’s hand to leave the park or playground, without a single look back at their parents. I found myself watching this video, tears pouring down my cheeks. It was utterly terrifying to see how easy it would be for someone to take our little ones away just with the use of a small fluffy puppy.
I decided to ask my little boy what he would do if approached by stranger. His first response was he would run back to Mummy. I then asked him “What if the stranger had a puppy, would you go back to his house to see the other puppies?” My heart sank when his answer was “Yes”. This then started a conversation about stranger danger. Part of me feels like I am taking his Innocence away from him too early, he is only 3 and a half. However, it is vitally important, in this day and age, that all children understand the dangers of strangers. It is quite a hard concept to grasp for a small child as they are happy to speak to anybody. I told my little boy that strangers are people we don’t know and who don’t know us. I have explained we don’t know if they are good people or bad people. He then asked why would they be bad people and I had to explain to him, very simply as to not scare him, that there are some people who would like to take him away from his mummy and daddy and we would never see him again. At first he thought he would be able to just fight them… there is the innocence!
I told him some strangers may ask him if he wants sweeties to try to get him into their car. I told him that if he ever wants anything from anybody he doesn’t know, he must always ask mummy, daddy, Grandma, Grumps or the adult he is with. He is never to take sweets from a stranger. I can understand why it is difficult for small children to understand the concept of strangers. As adults, we speak to strangers all the time; people at checkouts in supermarket, people in the street…we’re quite social but we’re able to distinguish the difference between a good person and a bad person, hopefully. It saddens me to think that there are people out there that want to take children away from their families. The reality is there are people like that and, as parents, we need to make sure our little ones are as safe as possible by giving them the skills to deal with situations such as being approached by strangers. Since our conversation about stranger danger, my little boy likes to tell people exactly what he would do if you ever met somebody in a park or street. The other day he told Grandma, “If a man or a lady tried to give me sweeties and a puppy in the park, I would run to Mummy because they are strangers, Grandma, and I don’t know them and they could be a baddie!”
If I sit down for long enough and think about all of the things in this world that could harm my children, I don’t think I’d ever leave the house. However, we can’t live that way. We need to give our children experiences and make sure they know how to stay safe whilst exploring life.