RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It's a worst case scenario, your child taken by a stranger with bad intentions.
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.
- Create an open dialogue between yourself and your child.
- Remember, you are the adult and it is your responsibility to monitor your child and their activities.
- Never leave a small child at home alone or unattended in a public place.
- Check for references of all baby-sitters, coaches and other child-care workers.
- Never label your child's clothing, toys, book bag, etc., with their name or personal information.
- Keep a recent photo (updated a few times a year, change of seasons is a good reminder) and a card with information including sex, race, height, weight, hair and eye color, blood type, and identifiable marks such as scars or birthmarks. Keep the photo and the card in an easily accessible location.
- Teach your child his or her name, address and phone number (including area code), and show them how to dial 911. Ensure they understand when a situation is an emergency.
- Educate your child with safety information that is appropriate for their age.
- Keep your computer in a central area of the home, and establish and enforce clear rules concerning use of the Internet.
- Use “teachable moments” to share safety information (examples: watching T.V. together, riding in a car, talking around the dinner table, reading a story, being on the computer with your child, etc…).
- Children need to hear, understand and practice the information.
Role play situations
- You're playing in the front yard and a person you don't know stops and ask you for directions.
- Someone who seems to know you and your parents stops at your bus stop and offers to give you a ride to school.
- You are in a store waiting for your mom to meet you when a stranger approaches you and offers you some free samples of toys.
- You are inside your home and a lady that lives down the street just had an accident with her car and they want to come in and use your phone to call the police.
- Use books and shows to deliver your safety message. Read, watch and ask questions.
- Have child list things Red Riding Hood could have done to be safer (walked with a group of friends, not alone; not have talked to strangers', left the house as soon as she felt a little uncomfortable). What she did right? (she screamed). What could grandmother have done to be safer? (locked her doors, checked to see who was at the door)
- Develop a “street smart” test for children to take
- An example of a True or False test:
- The lady you see at the Skate Land skating all the time is not a stranger.
- Strangers look dirty and smell bad.
- It is okay to catch a ride with another adult you don't know very well if your parents forget to pick you up from practice.
- If an adult you don't know needs directions to your school, it's ok to tell them as long as you don't get too close.
- It is ok to go look for a puppy of an older person you don't know.
- If a repair or delivery person comes to your door, it is ok to let him inside.
- It is ok to talk to someone you don't know well if they give you a gift.
- It is ok to enter a neighbor's house that you don't know as long as your friends are with you.
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
- Your parents have dropped you off at a movie. While watching the movie a person you don't know in the seat next to you keeps getting in your personal space. What do you do?
- You are walking to school when a car stops beside you and a person you have seen before but don't really know asks you where the school is located. The person is dressed nice, and looks like they may be a substitute teacher you may have had once. What do you say, or what do you do?