Child Safety Issues Become All Too Real in this Social Experiment by Child Safety Campaign

The Sahara Centre’s play area and food court – two vital venues that attract the largest number of children at this popular family destination in the emirate – is where the Child Safety Campaign (CSC), a subsidiary of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), chose to conduct the ‘Your Child Your Responsibility’ social experiment.

Upon completion, the experiment reveals worrying results with 50% of children being at risk of falling prey to the lure of strangers, indicating the pressing need for teaching parents the importance of supervising their children in public places and be able to recognise a potential threat in the most unassuming settings.

Conducted in collaboration with the Community Police Department at Sharjah Police, the experiment was carried out by a group of volunteers including 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.

They gave themselves four hours at the mall and tested 26 children including those with special needs from various age groups.

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 seducing 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.

“The importance of this factual 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,” remarked Al Yafei.

She continued: “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.”

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.

The trial aimed to increase parents’ awareness about the hazards of the phenomenon of luring children by strangers and how their children should deal cautiously with unknown people. It also highlights the need to raise awareness among people of all nationalities, especially when families travel to countries that suffer from increased incidences of child kidnapping and poor safety.
According to statistics by the International Labour Organisation, 1.2 million children are being trafficked at any given time worldwide. Al Yafei referred to the high security enjoyed by the UAE and scarcity of this phenomenon within the country.

The experiment also aimed to engage parents more and more in such initiatives and increase their involvement in their children’s lives by educating them not to respond to a stranger’s request or accept anything from them, as well as teach them proper ways on who to deal with circumstances that may endanger their lives.

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 danger of dealing with strangers and its grave consequences.