How to keep kids safe in crowds

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Have you ever had that heart-stopping, terrifying moment when you thought you had lost your child in a busy place, like a playground full of kids? Slowly, all the kids' voices and body shapes start blending. You had looked down at your phone for one second. You look back up, and you can't see your child. 

Finally, after what feels like a heart attack, you spot them. They were just being cheeky, hiding from you. You go up to them and are not impressed. You are fuming and feel like grounding them for putting you under such stress!

Your child moves so fast and fearlessly, unaware of the risk that they may lose you in the crowd. For the rest of the time there, it's like you've started playing a highly stressful game of hide and seek, and it's no longer the break you came out for. Instead, you are constantly trying to keep a lookout, your eyes and feet darting everywhere to keep up with your little one. You may regret coming out and vow never to again, especially in a highly crowded place. 

Thankfully, there are ways we can prepare to keep our kids safe in crowds for a less stressful experience. Here are some suggestions.

Before leaving

Ensure your child knows your phone number

Your phone number is the most important set of numbers for your child to remember (yes, even more than their times tables!). It will be handy when they need to call you or tell someone to help them contact you. If they're too young to remember it, you could write all your contact details on paper and put it in your child's pocket.

Teach your child what to do if they get lost

Teach your child that, in the event that they become separated from you, to stay right where they are and not let anyone take them anywhere else. Tell them to call out for you. Older children can call your name rather than shouting "Mummy," so you know they mean you. In a similar vein, tell your kids to listen for you calling them or their name being called over a loudspeaker system.

Teach your child how to identify people they can ask for help from. Start showing them pictures of what police officers, security, or shopkeepers look like. You could also teach them that if they can't find those particular people, they could ask another nearby parent or grandparent with children for help.

Roleplay a 'lost' situation

You could roleplay scenarios with them, asking them to pretend they are lost and what they would do. Tell them they should only answer to someone they know, like a police officer or someone working at the venue. Roleplay by practising asking questions like "What's the first step you will do if you lose mummy? Practice the answer with them and repeat. Other questions include, "Where do you live? What is mommy and daddy's name? What is their phone number?"

There are also plenty of picture books about safety and getting lost that you can read together.

Inform them of stranger danger

Tell your child to avoid talking to people they don't know when you're not around.

It's also important to teach your kids that they should never leave with a stranger. Explain how strangers may try to give them a gift or lolly but that they should never take it without mummy or daddy. 

You can teach your child to break free from anyone they don't know or don't trust if they are trying to force the child to go with them.

Ensure your child knows they should always tell you if a stranger tries to talk to them, and never keep this secret.

Always go to the toilet with them, and don't leave them alone.

Tell children to make a lot of noise if they're scared; this is when to make all the noise they want when they feel in danger. 

Dress your child in bright colours

Dressing your child in bright colours and distinctive patterns can help you spot them in crowded areas. For nighttime events, you could give them glow stick necklaces or bracelets to wear, which they'll also love.

You could also take a photo of what they're wearing before you go out so you have a visual of the clothes they are wearing that day in case you need to involve the authorities. 

Teach your kids about emergencies

The Triple Zero website and app are great learning tools for your child to play with and practice. It will be educational screen time that you won't need to feel guilty about. Through games, they will learn how to keep safe, what to do in an emergency and how emergency services can help us.

At the event or destination

Try to get there early

If possible, arrive early so you can get a spot if you need to, saving yourself from wandering around among the crowds. Try to avoid any unnecessary wandering where your child may get lost. 

Discuss a meeting point

Deciding on a meeting point when you arrive will help prepare them to know where to go should they become separated from you. Try to find a spot that will be easy for your child to identify and see. Go there with them, so they know exactly where it is and what it looks like. 

Show them how to identify who works there

When you first arrive at the destination, ask your child whether they can tell you who works there. This can give you the confidence that they will know they can identify employees to go to for help instead of a stranger. You can also ask them how they know that person works there. See if they can identify authorities and employees by their uniforms or badge. You could point out police officers or security guards together. 

Talk to your child about staying close

Have a chat with your child about how busy it will be, and it's important they stay near you at all times, or you might lose each other, and it may be tough to find each other. Ask them to hold onto the pram or your hand.

Always try to keep your child within an arm's length away so you can grab them quickly in a crowd. Ideally, you will be holding their hand at all times.

If they're at an age they will still sit in a pram, have them sit there. Otherwise, invest in a safety harness to keep toddlers from wandering away, as, at this age, they often don't know it's dangerous to do so.

Many kids' smartwatches and GPS trackers have voice call abilities, real-time location tracking, and SOS calling features. For example, the Spacetalk Adventurer Smart Talk Phone can set alerts to be notified if your child leaves a predefined Safe Zone.

Alternatively, consider purchasing a smartphone for your child such as the Opel smartphone for your little ones with features to help them call you in an emergency with one button. The phone will send contacts an SMS with the real-time GPS location of where the child. 

If your child does get lost

If you can't find your child where you last remember them being with you and around that area, go to the designated meeting spot you had discussed with them.

Call out for them as well, and contact security.

Make sure you listen out, too, in case your child has been found, and the venue announces this.

Tracey Cheung
Written by
Tracey Cheung

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