NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — What would your child do if they were approached by a stranger? The very question may send shivers down any parent’s spine.
CBS2’s Emily Smith was there exclusively for one school’s disturbing lesson about luring – sparked by recent incidents in the area.
It surprised the founder of the school that all six children fell for a stranger danger ploy. She hoped at least a few would look to her for guidance before just taking off with someone they do not know.
With CBS2’s camera hidden from the children’s view, a virtual stranger and his dog walked up to a group of 3- and 4-year-olds to see what they would do.
“Look at the beautiful dog I have! Come check it out! He’s really friendly! Who wants to him? Anyone want to pet the dog?” the man tells the group as three of the children eagerly run up to pet the dog. “Oh you do? Oh, he’s so friendly, isn’t he?
He continues: “You think you want to go somewhere with me and my dog? Should we go on a little adventure?”
One by one, the kids start to follow the stranger, and not one of them cries for help or asks for permission.
Nyla Kamlet, the founder of the Play Together New York City daycare, said she could not believe what happened – noticing the children who seemed to need to the most attention joined the stranger first.
“Some kids are more shy than other kids, and won’t go unless someone says it’s OK. Another needs a lot of attention and will go with anyone who’s smiling at them.” Kamlet said.
Thankfully, this was not a real perpetrator. Matt Gamage is the parent of a 4-year-old who attends a different class at the Upper West Side daycare.
“I would guess at this age, most parents probably haven’t had serious conversations with their kids, because they may not even think they understand what a stranger is,” Gamage said.
A string of near-incidents this past week on Long Island prompted the mock lurings on the Upper West Side.
CBS2 also reported recently on a well-publicized social experiment by YouTube video producer Joseph Saladino – which also involved a man with a dog pretending to lure children, and kids who were surprisingly eager to go with him despite their parents’ alarm.
CBS2 spoke to clinical psychologist Dr. Harris Straytner for his take on stranger danger. He advised talking to kids when they are 3 years old – and being sure to strike a balance.
“We shouldn’t inculcate a message to be fearful of strangers to the point where they are afraid to go up to a police officer — which we are starting to see,” Straytner said.
But Straytner did advise that you should sit your children down now and tell them not everyone is safe, even if they have a puppy or candy
“The youngster should say to mom and dad, ‘Is it OK if I speak to this person?’ and maybe mom and dad should go over,” he said.
Kamlet is not sure if the kids even understand what could have happened.
“A stranger is anyone you don’t know — even if they look pretty,” she told the children.
Next time students do the exercise, Kamlet hopes to see at least a little hesitation.
In all fairness, none of the kids had been spoken to about the experiment.
According to CBS2’s experts, one child a day per state in the United States is abducted, and police said with the weather getting warmer, more kids are playing outside and more predators could be waiting.