It’s a big hostile Dros out there: Here’s what parents can do

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It’s a big hostile Dros out there: Here’s what parents can do

As the child-rape suspect appears in court, experts give their advice on how to keep your children safe

Journalist


SA children are growing up in a hostile environment that is difficult for parents to navigate, a parenting expert told Times Select on Tuesday.
Nikki Bush was speaking on the same day that a 20-year-old man appeared in the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court for the rape of a seven-year-old girl in the bathroom of a Dros restaurant in Pretoria two weeks ago.
Civil organisations protesting outside court called for a charge of attempted murder to be added to the man’s rap sheet.
“This is not just rape. A child almost died at Dros restaurant. That is why we say this should be escalated to a charge of attempted murder,” said Themba Masango, secretary-general of the “Not in my Name” movement advocating for the protection of women and children.
The man, who tried to hide his face with a hooded sweater, appeared in court on charges of rape, possession of drugs and assault with the intent to cause grievously bodily harm.
The girl was in the playpen when she was allegedly followed into the bathroom and raped.
Masango said technology must be employed in restaurants so parents see their children all the time in the playpen.
The packed public gallery roared in approval when the man was remanded in custody for further investigation.
Bush, who has authored several books on parenting, said it was difficult for parents to talk to their children about the horrible things that could happen to them.
“Our children are growing up in a very hostile environment. We need to make them know that not everyone will be nice and kind to them.”
It was important for parents to have the difficult conversations with their children and ensure they prepared them for life in the real world, but they also needed to be calm during these conversations. 
“They must not get hysterical and keep fear out of the conversation. Parents must make the kids believe that they can keep themselves safe.”
She said the easiest way to tackle such conversations would be to create “what if” scenarios.
“Conversations like what if you get lost at a mall? The kids must know that they must approach the security in the mall and ask for help. They must know how to identify security personnel in a mall,” Bush said.
“If a stranger tries to do something to you, draw attention of other people by screaming out loud.
“Parents must give children a strategy on how to keep safe and must constantly have those conversations with their children over and over so that the message stays.”
Parents also need to be frank about the risk of child abduction and child trafficking.
“Explain that as groceries can be bought, children can also be bought. There are people out there with a specific shopping list on the type of children they want.”
A simple thing like keeping a child in a trolley or holding their hand is important while out shopping because children can easily get lost when in busy, crowded places, she said.
But in general, her experience is that SA parents are vigilant and are doing a good job at teaching their children about safety.
“This is what I gather from the safety presentations that I do in schools. Most children know that they are not supposed to accept food from strangers, not run with knives or scissors.”
News events should be discussed during dinner conversations, even if it is a difficult topic, said Bush.
Social media expert Yavi Mudarai said parents needed to use social media to their advantage. She said they needed to join parenting groups that usually have useful tips that can help them to keep children safe and get tips on how to not compromise their safety.
– additional reporting by Sipho Mabena
Family restaurants respond
Spur Group
Communications specialist Moshe Apleni: “Our franchisee’s approach is preemptive – attendants constantly monitor the situation in the Play Canyon and report any suspicious or irregular behaviour to management.”
He said their play areas were equipped with security cameras, and in some instances, they were broadcast as a live feed to various monitors in the restaurant so parents could keep an eye on their children while they played.
“While our franchisees make every effort to ensure the safety of all children, it is also the responsibility of the parent to look after their own children. Spur has always advised parents to accompany children to the toilet facilities; in fact, our staff have been instructed not to accompany any child to the restroom. This responsibility resides with the parent,” Apleni said.
Famous Brands, which manages Wimpy
Chief marketing officer Linda Sinclair: “The safety of all our restaurant patrons is extremely important to us, and a dreadful incident of this kind will always prompt us to see if there is possible room for improvement in certain policies and training.”
* Dros restaurant issued a statement shortly after the rape to say it had contacted the family to offer assistance.

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