As a distraught community comes to terms with the tragic death of young Obaida Sidqi, the eight-year-old Jordanian boy who was brutally murdered this past weekend, concerned parents have stressed the need for educating children about stranger danger.
Young Obaida was lured with the temptation of a new scooter, according to Dubai Police, before his kidnapper raped the young boy and strangled him to death.
Authorities have reiterated time and again for parents to keep a close watch on their children, listen to their feedback, and educate them not to deal with strangers.
Dubai Police has said children must be taught to inform their parents or school authorities if they suspect any stranger means them harm or is lurking around their home or school gates.
But several parents feel the onus ultimately falls on the primary care givers to step up and educate their children of the danger that lurks outside their homes.
Maryam Al Muhairi, a parent of three children says: "What happened with young Obaida is heartbreaking and a parent's worst nightmare come true. My blood runs cold just thinking of what the poor boy must have endured in his final hours.
"Yet, despite such stark reminders of the evil that lurks in the shadows, people have a misinformed mindset that such incidents cannot happen to their children. Obaida was one of us."
The mother also warned parents that it should never been assumed that a maid or nanny is watching their kids at all times.
Al Muhairi continues: "The UAE is largely a safe country and the attitude remains carefree at times, as young children are let out late into the evening on to deserted roads for a neighbourhood grocery run or similar errands. I want to stress to parents that such instances can leave things to chance. And your child is surely too precious to leave him to fate."
Zakhiya Reham, a mother of two in Dubai, says keeping a checklist stuck to the fridge serves as a constant reminder to herself to have regular chats with her children over safety concerns, while the latter now know what is being endorsed as safe behaviour.
Reham said: “Children require constant reminders of situations that can arise in real life and the dangers that lurk within.
"I have taped up common statements that can be used to lure them from their safety zones, be it the promise of free candy, news of their parent hurt or injured, a scooter, a lost puppy and what not.”
Daniel Smith, Dubai-based father of a seven-year-old says: "Stranger means danger. But what does that mean? Children should know its implications, what could happen and the possibility that they may never see their loved ones again.
"My wife and I constantly tell our daughter, if a situation arises where she feels uncomfortable or believes something is wrong in a situation, run to safety first, then get help.”
Checklist for parents
There are several online platforms that provide important tools for parents and interactive, yet educational life lessons for children in the world of stranger danger.
Talk to your kids
Jhanavi Thaker, a mother of two daughters says: "I keep the channel open for my girls to openly talk to me and constantly reiterate the need to come and speak with me or my husband or even a school teacher if they feel threatened in any manner, either physically or verbally."
Stranger is danger
Child safety online portal, Kidssmartz.org advises parents and educators to avoid saying 'never talk to strangers', but rather advise saying: "You should not approach just anyone. If you need help, look for a uniformed police officer, a store clerk with a nametag or a parent with children.
Liaqat Khalid says: "I tell my 11-year-old son, if he is ever approached by a stranger with the offer of a gift, news about his parent or even offering a lift home, firmly say no and inform me or my wife immediately."