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Children should not grow up in fear

01 June 2013 / 17:06:12  GRReporter
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The net regularly spreads messages that warn parents about specific cars, usually black ones, driving around certain areas of Greece and "kidnapping" children. At the same time, there are signals from anonymous users who claim that they have been "eyewitnesses" to similar cases in popular shopping centres, where gypsies have kidnapped small children, taking them to the toilets and then sedating them, changing their clothes, cutting their hair short and preparing them for the escape from the shopping centre.

These are two scenarios - stories that arouse fear and panic in parents, who, in response, are forced to make their children be careful to the extreme; or in the worst case, keep them confined to the home, away from unwanted encounters. But how true are these stories and how should parents and children react to such messages?

Without evidence

Employees of the Department of missing people with the Greek police and people from the organisation Children’s Smile have refuted these messages that appear and are instantly spread mainly over the net. At the event organised by Children’s Smile on Thursday, 23 May, police officer of the department Panagiotis Papandonis commented that, today, when we talk about child abductions, it usually comes down to parental kidnapping, and not abductions by strangers using a specific car and in specific areas, as messages in the social media read. According to Kostas Giannopoulos, chairman of the Children's Smile organisation, such publications that circulate on the Internet are not authentic at all. He added that there had been such cases in the past, but after the intervention of the Prosecutor's Office, it became clear that there was no evidence of a kidnapping.


The majority of missing children are teenagers

According to official data of the police and Children's Smile, the majority of missing children (53%) are teenagers aged between 13-18 years, most of whom are girls. Of the 43 cases of disappearances reported to the police in 2012 (much less compared to what is said), 26 are related to girls. "Girls are usually more persuadable when it comes to strangers on the net or acquaintances," Giannopoulos commented.

These data are confirmed by the case of a few days ago, when 13-year-old Christina Chrasa disappeared from her home in the Athens suburb of Spata on Sunday evening, 26 May. According to the police, the girl had recently established contacts on Facebook with a 23-year-old man of Albanian origin.

A tendency toward exaggeration

Publications on the net of missing children are spread by word of mouth in the community, worrying both parents and children. Giannopoulos explained what is happening: "Even conversations among friends of the type ‘the child of an acquaintance of mine saw a little boy being kidnapped in a mall’ are nothing but rumours. As it turned out later, the specific child did not see what happened with her own eyes, but heard about it in the store, and later told her mother." I.e., there is a tendency toward exaggeration and confirmation of events to which we have not been witnesses.

Inform your children

In order for children not to grow fearful and confined to the home for fear of a likely abduction, experts recommend that parents should inform their children about dangers that may be encountered and warn them not to speak or go with strangers; and in case something happens to them, they should inform the police or call Children’s Smile hotline 116 000. According to Giannopoulos, it is highly likely that children would believe it if someone told them that their parents were looking for them and he or she would take them to their parents. A recent incident disproves those who think that this is unbelievable. A few days ago, a 40-year-old man was arrested in Petralona, who had managed to make contacts with little girls dressed as a policeman.

On the other hand, as Children’s Smile psychologist Stefanos Alevizos explained for To Vima newspaper, we should not destroy children’s faith in relatives and people in general.

Tags: missing children Children's Smile Organisation kidnapping escape social media
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