While the festive season can be a happy time for parents and children alike, it can also be stressful to find ways to keep children safe when schools have closed, and parents have to go to work.
Childline South Africa and the Department of Social Development recommend that children under the age of 18 should not be left unsupervised.
The department says leaving children unattended or in the care of other children is child neglect, which is when parents fail in their responsibility to provide for the child’s basic physical, intellectual, emotional, or social needs.
Childline’s Faiza Khota advises parents to find alternative ways to keep their children safe, rather than leaving them home alone.
“You can leave your child with someone that you trust, such as a close relative or family friend. You also need to take note of who will be on the same premises as your child while they are being looked after, so that you can assess the level of safety surrounding them,” says Khota.
She advises parents to speak openly to their children about safety and what to do when they do not feel safe.
Tips for parents to ensure the safety of their children:
- Children must memorise their parents’ cell phone, home and work telephone numbers, and their home address.
- Monitor children who arrive home with unwarranted and unwanted gifts.
- Parents should not trust people they do not know well to look after their children.
- Be wary of people not known to the family who offer to take your children out for a treat, such as ice cream.
- Children and teenagers should be given a curfew, so they know what time they are expected home after going out or visiting friends.
- Children – including teenagers – should not take food or beverages from anyone when out in public spaces or at private parties. They should serve themselves at parties, and keep their beverages with them at all times, so that they cannot be spiked with drugs.
- Make sure your child knows who to call in an emergency, or if they feel unsafe.
Khota says community members who would like to report suspicions of child abuse can call Childline SA’s toll-free number: 116.
Alternatively, call the police on 10111 or the Department of Social Development hotline: 0800 220 250.