Growing up in the 1970’s, Mr six and I learnt all about ‘stranger danger’ from a cat called Charley, who miaowed an awful lot of sense to a little boy (Tony) who relayed the information.
We’ve drummed the importance of not talking to strangers into our boys since they were little and, until last week, I was confident that they understood the dangers.
Our 15 year old met with his friend. They went to school to collect their initial GCSE results, came back to our house to share the fabulous news then they decided to go out for the day.
When he came home at dinner time, he told me about a scenario that has really unnerved me.
Granted, it may be completely innocent, but I can’t help worry – and it’s made me realise that the term ‘stranger’ is open to interpretation…
The two lads had been ambling along when the friend noticed that a man was behind them and was unable to pass so the friend pulled my son’s arm and said, “Move over [name]”. As the man passed he laughed and said, “Yeah [name], move over!”
Then as he was in front, he slowed and walked with the two boys. He asked if they went to a specific high school (there’s two in our town) and said that he knew some of the teachers. He then went on to ask what they wanted to do when they left school and what their hobbies were…
My son mentioned that he played a particular instrument – and the stranger said that he taught the very same instrument and could teach him.
This of course all happened in a very non-threatening way, and the man could be the nicest human being – but in the space of a few minutes my son and his friend had unwittingly volunteered information that this man could, if he chose to do so, manipulate them.
Later that afternoon they went to our local music shop and it turned out that the stranger was there too. Again, this could be nothing, but as my son had said he played an instrument, it’s likely that he would visit the only music shop in the locality.
My son is convinced that this was an entirely innocent exchange and that I am panicking over nothing – but it has really opened my eyes as to how easy it is to gain the trust of someone and how quickly the teenagers stopped thinking of this man as a stranger…