Parents have been urged to empower their children to know how to respond to any crisis or act of criminality, in the wake of at least three kidnappings reported in and around Cape Town in recent days. Schools have reportedly also issued related warnings to parents.
“As parents and guardians, it is our responsibility to not only educate our children about safety but to also give them the necessary tools to deal with a crisis. While we certainly don’t want our children to live in fear, we do need to have frank conversations about what to do when things go wrong,” explains Mr Jade Hanning, Cape Town South district manager at Fidelity ADT.
There are simple actions, he says, which can often keep a child safe. Hanning also reminds parents to constantly reinforce general safety tips for children:
They must always walk to or from school with a friend or friends. Stick to streets they know and never take short cuts through quiet areas or empty parking lots and never walk with cell phones and iPads in full view.
If they get picked up at school, they should never leave the premises but always wait inside the school grounds for their lift to arrive.
They must never get into a stranger’s car; even if the stranger claims that someone they love is hurt and that they have been sent to pick them up. Remind them that you would never send someone they don’t know to fetch them.
Consider using a password system. If the person coming to collect you from school cannot repeat the password you and your child agreed on, they should not get into the car but immediately ask for help.
If a stranger approaches them, they should not talk to them no matter how friendly they may seem. If someone tries to grab them, they need to fight, kick and shout out that the person is not their mom or dad.
If your child does encounter any suspicious activity, encourage them to get a good look and memorise their physical details and clothing, as well as the vehicle they are in. Listen for any names or other details that might help identify them later.
Make sure your children memorise their full names, address and phone number. Using a play phone, teach them when and how to dial 10111.
Quite simply, the same rules that apply to adults need to be instilled in children, says Hanning. He also urged parents and caregivers to immediately raise the alarm if their children are missing, so that authorities can be deployed to assist.