Keep your children safe this holiday

By Drum Digital
15 December 2015

By Vida Li-Sik 

Parents, keep a close eye on your children in malls and on the beach this festive season. A child goes missing every five hours in Mzansi and, according to reports from Missing Children South Africa; human trafficking is on the increase globally.

Consumers should be vigilant and keep safe by reporting any suspicious behaviour to security personnel and the police, says Simon Colman, Underwriting Executive at SHA Specialist Underwriters.

“This is especially true when public spaces are overcrowded. Have a plan of action,” he adds.

He offers the following tips to keep children safe:

1. Speak to children about the realities. Have an open and realistic conversation about the risk of kidnapping in a crowded mall or beach. You don’t want to scare but prepare them. Urge them not to wander off on their own. Clearly explain to children from a young age what the do’s and don’ts are when it comes to walking around in public spaces. Have conversations about events on the news in an age-appropriate way, to help them understand.

2. Teach them how to identify a stranger or a possible threat. Kidnappers aren’t always creepy-looking people in black coats – they can be anyone on the street. Teach your children not to talk to anyone they don’t know or trust, and not to do anything don’t want to do. Adults normally won’t ask kids for help, so tell them to see this as a warning sign.

Another way to identify a suspicious person would be if the stranger wants them to go somewhere. Teach them never to get into a car with a stranger or walk to a distant area. They are allowed to say “no” to these adults.

3. Teach your kids that rules change when they are in danger

Normally, we teach our kids not to interrupt other people or not to make a mess or unnecessary noise. Tell them that when they are in danger, those rules can change and they are allowed to interrupt their guardian to get their urgent attention. They need to know that it’s okay to kick, scream, yell or knock things over to get their parent’s attention if they ever feel they’re in danger.

4. Have and practise an emergency plan

Have a plan of action and make sure your child knows exactly what to do when they are lost or lost contact with you. You could give your children a specific whistle they are only allowed to blow when they are feeling threatened or scared. Teach your child it’s okay to scream when they feel an adult is being inappropriate.

You could also write your cell phone numbers on your kids’ arms in case the child goes missing. This will allow your child to go to a safety officer and have them phone you to be reunited. Tell your children that should they ever get lost in a mall, they should go to the nearest store clerk and stay there until they are found.

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