According to Missing Children South Africa, a child goes missing every five hours in our country.
One minute your child is there, the next minute they’re gone.
It is a frightening reality and every parent’s nightmare, but a prevailing issue in South Africa.
It’s a chilling statistic – and it should serve as a warning to every parent to take preventative steps to help ensure their child remains safe.
Also see: 12 facts on child abductions
Preventing the unthinkable
“The last thing you want to do is instil a sense of fear in your child but a healthy awareness of the dangers of the world could end up saving their lives,” says Casey Rousseau, 1st for Women Insurance’s spokesperson.
“When it comes to kidnapping, the more knowledge both the parent and child have, the better their chances of identifying kidnappers and preventing the unthinkable from happening.”
Here are the tips they’ve provided to keep you on your guard:
1. Keep the lines of communication open between you and your children. They should know your cell phone number, home phone number, as well as their own address.
2. Don’t take anything from strangers. It’s quite a common saying but not enough of an implemented rule. If a stranger offers anything to your kids, they should check with you first. In your absence, it’s best they don’t accept at all.
3. Keep friends close. If your child is going to a place they’ve never been to before or aren’t that well familiar with, it’s advisable they take a trusted friend along.
4. Decline the odd job offer. Kids aren’t likely to receive job offers, so consider it strange if your child does. Tell them to always turn them down – even if it’s simply a request for assistance with something.
5. Tell them they can trust you. The best relationship between a parent and their child is when they trust you enough to share anything with you that makes them feel uncomfortable. It’s important to know when something or someone is bothering your child.
6. Make them understand you’re not deliberately spying. If your child is still young and vulnerable, it could be a good idea to monitor their time spent online – that’s where the predators usually lurk. Just make it clear it’s not an excuse for you to snoop through their private messages or interactions.
7. Speed and noise are key. If someone is chasing your child or forcing them into a car, the best reaction is to scream and make a dash for it – provided the attacker doesn’t have a dangerous weapon.
8. Establish a plan of action. In the event your child gets lost in a busy public space, they’ll know what to do or where to meet you.