Parents in Didsbury, Manchester have been warned to be extra vigilant after a shocking incident this week when a man grabbed a child near a primary school.
According to the Manchester Evening News, a man sitting in a parked car on Elm Grove, near Didsbury Church of England primary school, reached through his open window and grabbed the hood of a passing child.
The child, believed to be 9 or 10, managed to get away and school staff were alerted. Police are now investigating what happened and an email has been sent to all parents of primary school kids in the area, urging them to “be aware” and note down the registration number of any suspicious-looking cars.
“The child managed to run off and her parent who was walking not far behind her has reported the incident to the police, who are investigating it,” said the email. “We felt all parents and children needed to be aware. The police will be visiting the school to speak to Years 5/6 about stranger danger and advised parents to be vigilant and if possible take the registration numbers of any cars in which people are acting suspiciously and call the police with the details.”
In an age where we worry about the dangers facing our kids online it’s worth remembering that old-fashioned “stranger danger” is still an issue. But what’s the best way to teach our kids to stay safe when we’re not there to watch over them?
When children are old enough to be outdoors unattended, for example walking home from school unsupervised, it’s important to instill in them the importance of being vigilant at all times, without scaring them.
Teaching Your Child suggests that you explain “that the world in general is a safe place but of course there are people who they need to be careful of” and recommends the book “Not Everyone is Nice” to help them understand this concept.
Other tips include:
- Try to ensure your child always walks to/from school with one or two friends, instead of alone. Make sure they always walk the same route and if they do change it make sure they let you know beforehand.
- If your child is old/responsible enough to have a mobile phone remind them to keep it in an accessible place if needed and set up speed-dialling for all emergency contact numbers.
- For a younger child a whistle can be used if they need help or if they get lost in a public place.
- Come up with a unique code word that only you and your child know. Teach your child that if someone they don’t know comes to pick them up from school (or another location), they can only go with them if they provide the correct code word.
The charity’s Safe, Not Scared campaign wants schools and parents to encourage children to trust their instincts because the “don’t speak to strangers” message could stop children asking for help if they were lost or facing an emergency.
Geoff Newiss, research director for Action Against Abduction, said, “If you close down children’s social interactions with adults you’re depriving them of that ability to recognise what doesn’t feel right.”
Newiss said new guidelines would help children stop being frightened of strangers and instead develop the confidence to “yell, run and tell” when faced with a dangerous situation.