UPDATE: It has been pointed out to me that the experiment was created and carried out by Daybreak. Kidscape’s involvement came later when they were asked by the TV company to offer advice. See the comments for more information.
One of today’s big stories is the ‘shocking’ and ‘frightening’ result of an experiment by child protection charity Kidscape.
They set about to prove how easy it was for strangers to lure children away with them. They had several kids playing happily in a play park while their mothers sat nearby ‘distracted’ by a phone call. Then a man approached a child and asked them to come with him to look for his lost dog.
Apparently after some persuasion some of the children set off with him. Though, according to the report I read, two of the mums said their kids turned back fairly quickly.
I know kids do get abducted by strangers, it does happen, just not very often. In fact, according to Kidscape’s own figures 273 kids were taken by strangers last year compared to 368 who were taken by people they knew.
Just have a think about that. That’s nearly 100 more who were snatched by friends and family and doesn’t begin to include all the other kind of harms inflicted on children by those known to them – apparently people they ought to be able to trust.
Why on earth is Kidscape creating fear and alarm with this, at best, spurious piece of ‘research’? All it’s going to succeed in doing is making parents more fearful of letting their children have the freedom to play and learn to make their own decisions. It might even help breed a generation of children too terrified to trust in the goodness of human nature and the voice of their own instinct.
And the whole premise suggests that no one must ever speak to a child you don’t know – whatever your motivation.
It also reinforces the fallacy that danger is only going to take the form of a strange man you meet outside.
Instead, here’s what we should be expending time and energy on:
More ways of helping children to talk about things that make them miserable/frightened.
- Learning how to teach your children to trust their instinct and make informed decisions.
- Understanding the world is a risky place, but a life of fear is hardly a life at all.
And in order that we don’t have to endure many more publicity stunt scare stories we need these lessons too:
- What gives something good news value (ie makes the papers & gets shared on the internet) is not the same as a good value news (ie balanced, sensible information).
- There will always be wicked people and there’s not always something we can do to protect ourselves from them. Luckily most of us will never meet one.
Meantime, for goodness sake, keep taking your kids to the park and letting them out to play. By all means tell them not to go with strangers, but don’t let it spoil anyone’s fun.