Sharjah: A recent survey conducted in a mall has revealed that children continue to be vulnerable to the lure of strangers, with at least 50 per cent falling for the attraction of gifts, games or chocolates.

Child Safety Campaign (CSC), a subsidiary of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), recently conducted a social experiment ‘Your Child Your Responsibility’ drive to create greater awareness about child safety.

Conducted at the Sahara Centre’s play area and food court, places frequented by children, the experiment revealed worrying results with 50 per cent of children being at risk of falling prey to the lure of strangers.

Indicating the pressing need for creating greater awareness among parents about the importance of supervising their children in public places, the experiment underlines the need to recognise potential threats in the most unassuming settings. 

Carried out in collaboration with the Community Police Department at Sharjah Police, a group of volunteers approached 26 children of various age groups, including children with special needs.

The volunteers included Hanadi Saleh Al Yafei, Director at the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA) and Head of the Organising Committee of CSC; Nahla Hamdan, Head of Initiatives and Activities at SCFA; Hind Al Badwawi, Psychological Consultant; and Omar Al Rasheed, an actor, gave themselves four hours at the mall to approach the children tempting them in different ways.

The Campaign took permission from parents to film their children, explaining to them that they will try to lure their young ones, and film their reactions. 
The team used several tricks and tactics to tempt children, including promising them to buy games, gifts, and sweets.

They also pretended to know their parents. The experiment resulted in successfully attracting 13 of the 26 participants. The other half refused to give into the strangers’ demands. 

“There is probably nothing that freaks out a parent more than the fear of their child being lured away by a stranger, which is why we conducted this experiment to raise parents’ awareness about the need to constantly talk about stranger-danger with their little ones,” said Hanadi Saleh Al Yafei.

She added that the importance of this experiment and its dangerous indications is represented in conveying the CSC’s message in new and more interactive ways that can better influence parents and children and solicit their reactions about dangers surrounding children. 

“During the experiment, we received different reactions from children regardless of their age or nationality. We found out that there are many parents and children who are fully aware about this topic, a fact that made us really happy and satisfied. But, we are a bit concerned about the fact that some others were so easily lured,” she noted.

After the experiment, parents were able to express how they felt as their children accepted or denied the strangers’ offers, and were given a brief explanation by Psychological Consultant Hind Al Badwawi, who spoke to both parents and children, on how to protect themselves from such attempts by recognising and properly reacting to similar situations.

According to statistics by the International Labour Organisation, 1.2 million children are being trafficked at any given time worldwide. 

The CSC will circulate the results of the experiment to all child care centres and institutions, and broadcast the experiment’s video on TV channels and social media platforms to raise parents’ awareness about the dangers of dealing with strangers and its grave consequences.