Gone in 90 seconds - how long it takes to abduct a child
All it takes is 90 seconds. You turn your head away from a child in a public playground, and they're gone.
A British television program in co-operation with a children's charity demonstrated this week just how swiftly
and easy it is to take children from under their parents' noses, with just a momentary loss of concentration.
One of the most troubling aspects of the set-up was how willing children were to go off with a stranger, who acted
in a friendly manner and looked like a normal person.
ITV's Daybreak program in association with Kidscape carried out the test in a park playground using real mothers,
and children aged under 11 years.
The mothers and kids arrived at the playground, which was closed off to the public for the length of the trial
and, on receiving a phone call from Daybreak producers, walked off leaving the children to their own devices among
the play equipment.
Enter the stranger, a man dressed in an ordinary checked shirt and long shorts, who approached the children - some who
were as young as five years old.
The man asked them to help him look for his child or a lost dog.
Of the nine children he approached, seven co-operated and within a space of 90 seconds walked from the playground with him.
All the children had been warned by their parents about "stranger danger" and none had previously met the man.
One seven-year-old boy turned the man down, but then changed his mind in less than a minute.
Despite the fact it was a set-up for the cameras, some of the mothers involved became traumatised
their children had unwittingly been led astray and wanted the experiment to stop.
"It was extremely hard for me to do it," said Kerry, one of the mothers involved in the experiment
who saw her son go willingly with the apparent predator.
"He went so far, so quickly, I called him back - I actually couldn’t do it any more. I never thought he
would go willingly with someone without physical contact," one mother said, according to a report in the Daily Mail.
A woman whose 11-year-old daughter agreed to go with the man, and then changed her mind, said she had thought her
child had been more street smart.
"It really shocked me that she initially went with him," she told The Sun newspaper.
"If it had happened on a busy street, she could have been in the back of the stranger’s car in that time."
The report said parents should tell their children predators are not always "spooky cartoon characters", but
could appear like normal people who would behave in a friendly manner and use a trick to lure their victims.
ITV has posted a list of “Stranger Danger Top Tips” on its website to help prevent your child being abducted.
Tell your child that even if they are not sure if someone is a stranger they should always behave in the same way
and not take risks.
Teach them stock phrases to help give them confidence. For example: a child offered money or sweets should respond,
‘No thank you. Please leave me alone’.
It’s important children don’t think that talking to a stranger is okay
if they’re with a friend. Teach them they should only talk to someone they
don’t know if you are there by their side.