90 Seconds To Take Your Child: Chilling TV Experiment Reveals Children Happy To Go With Strangers

14/08/2014 16:53 | Updated 22 May 2015

Chilling TV experiment reveals children's naivety about stranger danger

A chilling TV experiment has revealed how naive our children are to the perils of stranger danger.

In the shocking test, supported by the charity Kidscape and filmed for ITV's Daybreak, nine mums took their kids, aged five to 11, to different parks.

A fake 'stranger' was then sent in to the park to attempt to coax the child away. Alarmingly, seven of the nine children duly followed the stranger out of the park and away from their mum, who sat talking on their mobile phone on a bench nearby.

The experiment highlighted the risk that all youngsters face by not being properly educated about strangers.

Claude Knights, chief executive officer of the charity, said: "This investigation is hugely important.

"It shows very clearly how easily a child could be lured away by a stranger.

"It sends a strong message to all parents everywhere that they need to talk to their children about stranger danger issues from an early age.

"It is, of course, vital not to frighten young people as only a very small percentage of adults would ever think of harming a child.

"We do, however, want them to feel confident enough to avoid or stand up to situations and be knowledgeable enough to know when and how to get away safely."

Recent statistics collected from British police forces for 2011/12 show that 273 children were abducted by people they did not know. In the same period, there were 368 children abducted by people they did know, including family members.

None of the children were aware of exercise Mrs Knights said: "With the increased awareness of cyber-bullying, the Daybreak experiment refocuses the importance of stranger awareness in the 'real world'.

"The investigation will hopefully encourage and help families to equip their children with vital safety messages and strategies."

In the highly controlled test, none of the children were aware of what was going on. Security guards known as Close Protection Officers played the part of a stranger who had lost his dog.

One mum who took part revealed that the exercise had been a wake-up call for them.

Naomi, 41, who took part in the investigation with her seven-year-old son, Ben, said: "While in the playground with Ben, I got the mock phone call. I told Ben to carry on playing and went to talk on a bench outside.

"The man then approached Ben and showed him a photo of a dog which he said he'd lost and needed help to find.

"Ben was quite hesitant at first, but after a few attempts he followed the man out of the playground.

"It was so quick. I was looking away for a split second and in that time he had been taken away.

"Ben seemed to realise what he had done and within a few seconds ran back into the playground.

"But it was still very shocking for me. I really thought he wouldn't fall for it.

"He knows you never talk to strangers - I thought that had been drummed into his head enough times.

"But the man was very convincing. He didn't look like some kind of child abuser, just like a normal guy.

"If he had come up to Ben using the packet of sweets trick, I don't think he would have fallen for it. Something like a lost dog works, though, because the child feels sorry for them and believes the story.

"I really hope this experiment makes parents more aware. It has been a massive learning curve for me.

"I have five children and do get easily distracted because life is so busy. But now I'll be much more conscious of what I'm doing around them.

"Ben knows now never to trust anyone, too. It's sad but that's the way it has to be."

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