A recent social experiment in Sharjah revealed that over 97 percent of children would board a stranger's van for a free ice cream, a result described as 'astounding' by a spokesperson for the conducting organization. Hanadi Al Yafei, Director of Sharjah’s Child Safety Department (CSD), expressed her surprise to Khaleej Times, stating, “Despite anticipating a relaxed response due to the perceived safety of our society, the fact that 97.3 percent of children readily accepted a gift from a stranger and entered their vehicle was truly astonishing.” She emphasized the need for vigilance, despite the UAE being considered one of the safest countries globally.

Last week, CSD conducted an experiment in a Sharjah park where out of 37 participants, only one child hesitated to accept a free ice cream from a stranger in exchange for entering his van. The remaining 36 children readily accepted the offer. Al Yafei highlighted the experiment as an 'eye-opener' for parents and guardians, urging them to educate children on safely dealing with strangers. Samina Khanyari, General Manager of Jumeirah International Nurseries, Early Childhood Centres (ECC), supported this view, noting that young children, due to their developing cognitive abilities, often struggle to differentiate between safe and unsafe strangers.

Al Yafei stressed the experiment as a “stark reminder” of children's vulnerability, calling for proactive measures by parents and educators to equip children with the skills to avoid dangerous situations. She advocated for teaching children the importance of seeking permission and informing about their whereabouts. Zoltan Rendes, a single father and partner at UAE-based company SunMoney Solar, shared his approach to teaching his 7-year-old son about safety, emphasizing personal responsibility over external factors.

Khanyari suggested various age-appropriate techniques to educate children about stranger danger, including role-playing, storytelling, and visual aids like posters and videos. She emphasized the importance of consistent reinforcement of safety rules and regular discussions about not accepting gifts or rides from unknown individuals.