Written for Carte Blanche

There is a dangerous crime wave hitting South Africa. Kidnappings have shown a marked increase in recent years.

Where targets were previously wealthy individuals, criminals are now preying on ordinary citizens, including teenagers and children.
Official police statistics show kidnapping skyrocketing by 139 per cent in the last decade and there appears to be a trend towards opportunistic abductions for quick ransom payments via e-wallets.
This was a eNCA broadcast on 20 November 2019 at 6.28am.
So this is a real threat for families.

How can we safeguard our children?

We do not want to instil a sense of fear in our children but a healthy awareness of the dangers of the world could end up saving their lives.

The following tips can be lifesavers:

  1. Keep the lines of communication open between you and your children. They should know your cell phone number, home phone number, as well as their own address.
  2. Don’t take anything from strangers. If a stranger offers anything to your kids, they should check with you first. Help your younger children to know that a stranger can be a man, woman or older child. They can be nice, friendly and offer sweats or ask you to help them look for a lost pet. A stranger does not mean the person comes across as a “baddie”.
  3. Encourage your children to keep friends close. If your child is going to a place they’ve never been to before or aren’t that well familiar with, it’s advisable they take a trusted friend along.
  4. Kids aren’t likely to receive job offers, so consider it strange if your child does. Tell them to always turn them down – even if it’s simply a request for assistance with something. The request for help will easily touch the hearts strings of your child. Educate your children to trust themselves. If they feel uncomfortable, they must seek out a trusted adult.
  5. Tell them they can trust you. The best relationship between a parent and their child is when they trust you enough to share anything with you that makes them feel uncomfortable. It’s important to know when something or someone is bothering your child.
  6. Make them understand you’re not deliberately spying. If your child is still young and vulnerable, it could be a good idea to monitor their time spent online – that’s where the predators usually lurk. Just make it clear it’s not an excuse for you to snoop through their private messages or interactions.
  7. Speed and noise are key. If someone is chasing your child or forcing them into a car, the best reaction is to scream and make a dash for it – provided the attacker doesn’t have a dangerous weapon.
  8. Establish a plan of action. In the event your child gets lost in a busy public space, they’ll know what to do or where to meet you.
  9. Create a safe word between your child and you. Remind your child if you ever ask another adult to pick them up, they can ask for the safe word and if the adult does not know it, for your child to run away.
  10. Tell your kids that you are there to protect them. If they ever feel unsafe, threatened or uncertain about their safety, they must come to you. Always take what they tell you serious.

Ilze Alberts. Family Psychologist