It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. Despite everything you try to tell your kids about being safe and using common sense to avoid dangerous situations, they do something that shows they really haven’t got the message at all.
To highlight just how easy it is for young teens to fall into the traps of potential predators, YouTube social experimenter Coby Persin set up a series of situations that showed what can happen and why parents should never think that their kids know better.
In order to see how effective parents’ conversations with their kids about stranger danger had been, Persin set up a few real-life scenarios in the New York area.
The first one involved Pokemon Go!, the wildly popular interactive smartphone game that caused a huge spike in traffic fatalities as distracted players, whether walking or driving, got into sometimes fatal car crashes, as documented in a study from Perdue University.
The first child, Sarah, a 12-year-old girl who was part of the experiment, was a huge Pokemon Go! fan and would spend most of her time around the neighborhood playing the game. As her father, told Persin: “I would say she’s obsessed with it.” According to Sarah’s dad, “she’s supposed to stay within these blocks.”
The father called his daughter and asked her to come home, as it was getting dark outside. She agrees to come in 15–20 minutes, but when a member of Persin’s team drives by and says “I’m out here hunting Pokemon. There’s a really rare one about four blocks up,” she falls right into the trap. Without even asking which Pokemon he’s looking for, she gets into a complete stranger’s car.
The man drives her back to her apartment, where her dad just can’t believe she would do such a thing. “What would be the reason that you would get in the car with this man?”
“You’re lucky that this is just a test, because if that was a real stranger that nobody knew, you don’t know what would happen […] God knows where you would have wound up.”
The next child to take part in the experiment was an 11-year-old girl named Elaina. Her mom had established some clear boundaries with her. She was allowed to walk over to her friend’s house a few blocks away and stay there. But come rain or shine, she needed to be back home by 4:00 p.m. at the latest.
Coby Persin had the same older male actor drive by as Elaina was walking home, right on schedule. The actor asks her what’s she doing and offers her a ride. Thankfully, this girl knows that something’s not right about the situation and says defiantly, “I’m going to my house.”
She breaks into a run and sprints back home to find her mom waiting for her. Trying to comfort her, her emotional mom couldn’t be prouder of how her daughter responded.
In the last test, Persin uses a boy instead. Jonathan, aged 9, is allowed by his mom to walk home from school, especially as it’s only a few blocks away and she wants him to enjoy the sunshine and summer weather. While she has talked to him about stranger danger “here and there,” she admits they haven’t gone on about it very much.
To fit the gender switch of the test subject, Persin gets an older female actor to portray the predator this time. She drives up to Jonathan as he’s walking home. “Hey, your mom told me to pick you up. She has a little surprise for you. Jump in the back and I’ll take you there.”
Without asking any questions, Jonathan jumps into the backseat of the complete stranger’s car, oblivious to the danger. When the actress brings him back to the house, his mom is incredibly upset. “Whether it’s a woman or man, you never get in the car with a stranger. What was going through your head?”
As the credits roll, Persin reminds parents “as the time approaches for children to return to school, it is important to talk to them about ‘stranger danger’ and keep them safe.” A message that could save a child’s life!