A few months back I wrote a piece about the location of a missing child. In the days after the piece was published I was interviewed on the radio about my thoughts and the question that came up was whether or not our kids are safe. I was asked about whether or not the idea of a person prowling the streets in a white van was a legitimate fear. I was a bit stumped by the question and after reading and thinking and researching the question my simple answer is I don’t know.
The idea of a white van prowling the streets has long been an image that parents, school kids and the media have perpetuated. We hear the conflicting messages about childhood obesity and children needing to be physical and then we receive circulars home from school warning us about attempted abductions in the local area. It makes it difficult to let our kids roam free.
A research study by Deakin university found that one of the top four reasons why we don’t use our local amenities is a fear of strangers – our fear of allowing our children to move about in our local area affects not only the well worn path between home and school but our attempts to let our kids play in our local area.
The data around attempted abductions is a little difficult to capture – some attempts might not be reported, some kids might not tell parents or maybe they are captured under different sub categories. Its difficult to confirm whether or not the white van actually exists. Most recent figures from the Australian Institute of Criminology state that just over 750 abductions occurred during one calendar year and that just over half were by a stranger. Children made up less than 20% of the cases.
My daughter’s school recently sent home that warning. We tread a difficult line as parents of wanting to up skill our kids with the right tools so that if the situation arises they know what to do but you also don’t want to scare the bejeezus out of them.