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Daybreak Stranger Danger investigation

Published: Wed 04 Sep 2013

Daybreak Stranger Danger investigation
 
A Daybreak investigation has shown the frightening risk parents are potentially putting their children at by not appropriately teaching them knowledge of stranger awareness.
 
In a groundbreaking TV experiment, ITV’s Daybreak has identified the ease at which a child could be potentially lured away by a stranger, by asking the question affecting all parents: What would your child do if they were approached by a stranger?
 
In a controlled and structured environment, Daybreak tested this question by conducting an intricate experiment. After recruiting nine volunteer parents and children (aged between 5-11 years) who believed they had had the conversation with their child about the importance of stranger danger, a ‘normal’ environment was created within a playground. With the child playing and the parent pretending to be distracted on a nearby bench, a Close Protection Officer posing as a stranger approached the child with the lure of helping to find a lost dog or help to find a child following a game of hide and seek.
 
In a chilling turn of events seven out of the nine children followed the stranger out of the park.
 
Following the experiment one mother said; "He [the CP Officer posing as a stranger] led him out of the park and my son followed, I actually couldn't believe it, I was horrified, and you know what it's a reality check, it showed me you cannot be naïve, you cannot trust that your kids know as much as you've told them.”
 
Another added; “If the adult that's with them is distracted it so easily could happen that they'd walk off with them. I don't think there's enough education out there for young children. They need to be more aware of different situations that they could come across.”
 
This week on Daybreak, the dangers of not correctly teaching stranger awareness will be highlighted through a variety of films and online advice. The family breakfast TV show will also show parents how important it is to have the right  conversation with their children about stranger danger.
 
Children’s charity Kidscape said:  'Many harrowing headlines related to online events have increased awareness of cyber bullying in recent years. Daybreak's experiment refocuses our attention on the importance of stranger awareness in the 'real world'. Indeed, Daybreak's investigation has highlighted the potential consequences of our children not being taught appropriate ways of keeping safe in situations involving strangers. Many important messages and skills need to be taught and practised from toddler years to teens. We have a duty to send our children safely into the world. The findings from this investigation help us to meet this important challenge.'
 
With the duty of care of the children and parents as the prime priority throughout this experiment, all participants were rigorously profiled and evaluated before, during and after the process. All children who were led away were immediately led back to their parent with the parent being suitably coached on how to react to their child if/when they walked off with the stranger.
 
Daybreak’s Stranger Danger, ITV, Wed 4th – Thur 5th September, 6-8.30am. www.itv.com/daybreak
 
Note to editors:
 
The psychologist used were approved and recommended by the British Psychological Society.
 
In advance of the filming, all the children and parents involved spent around an hour with the psychologist whilst not making the child aware of the reason behind their session. After filming the psychologist also followed up with each parent to ensure there were no late/delayed reactions. All the parents were coached in how to react to their child if their child walked off with the stranger to help ensure the children were well looked after during the process. The psychologists were also on hand to provide support during the filming.
 
The park environment was closed to the public with only CRB checked security staff and Daybreak crew were present.
 
The children were unaware of the filming.
 
The stranger was played by a CRB checked Close Protection Officer who had been trained in dealing with lost children.