A viral video shows a man luring children from a park. The parents are in on the demonstration, but shocked at how easily their children went along with a perfect stranger.
NBC12 took this same experiment to parks in Richmond.
Matt, an NBC12 employee and father himself, graciously agreed to be the "stranger." We set him up in the corner of the playground, so no one would see him with us. Then, we went straight to the parents and asked if we could test their children.
Up first was Mason, a 3-year-old playing at Huguenot Park. We gave Matt the cue, and he zeroed in on his "target" with a picture of a "lost puppy." Mason ran right away.
"My heart was pounding the entire time," said Mason's mother, Lynn Goff. "You try and prepare them and you hope they do the right thing. But that's the first time its ever been tested. He did great. He ran away from the stranger."
Then, we headed over to Sunday Park. Same plan, new target. Julien and Cora were hard at play, and their moth us permission to test them on stranger safety.
Matt asked Julien, "Have you seen a dog around?"
With very little prodding, sweet and friendly Julien grabbed Matt's hand, eager to help, and walked off into the woods. Then his sister Cora followed, out of Mom's sight, without looking back.
But then, even Julien thought twice. "Um, first I have to ask my Mom," he said.
It might have been too late in a real abduction, but we have to give Julien credit for remembering to ask his mother first. To be fair, in a real scenario, Mom was sitting right there in the park, watching closely. She probably would have seen us. For her, none of her children's decisions were a surprise.
"He wants to talk to anybody that he sees," says Lisa Siwiec.
So, how does she tackle that as a parent?
"I just watch him when he is talking to people," says Siwiec. "I figure if he wants to go up and talk then I'm OK with it as long as I guess if we're out and he's having a conversation."
Still, Julien does seem to grasp the importance of knowing who he talks to.
"Sometimes there's somebody, I don't know who that person is. But my friends are not new," he says. "Ask Mommy or Daddy if I could go with them!"
If you were wondering what your kid would do in this situation, especially if you have a friendly child like, you're not alone. The discussion continues on the NBC12 facebook page.
And here are some tips from police about talking to your kids about stranger safety:
The below information is designed for parents to share with children, but please remember that providing information to children isn't enough to keep them safe. Children should hear, understand and practice the information, which will empower them to make good decisions.
Role play situations
If the child answers true to any of the above they are not “street smart.” Parents need to be aware of how much knowledge their children have and if they are able to put it into practice.
Develop a “What if…” test
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