Thinking Allowed

By Mariam Mokhtar

Most people would take their children to the park for some healthy exercise, but other parents seem to treat the shopping aisles and open spaces in shopping complexes as the playground for their children.

Screaming children and toddlers who run around, knocking into other people, do not contribute to a quiet shopping experience. Few people would dare to discipline these children, because the parents would be offended and start a slanging match with the complainer.

So, why do parents exercise poor control, when they go shopping with their children?

On June 15, it was reported, in the mainstream media, that the right hand of fifteen-month old Mohd Akfar Daniel Freedy was severed, when it was trapped in an escalator. His parents were shopping on the second floor of the complex, and the toddler had wandered off, unbeknownst to them.

The security guards heard the child’s screams at the bottom of escalator, on the first floor, but rescue workers were unable to recover his hand, which was trapped in the mechanisms of the escalator. By the time, they retrieved his severed hand, it was too late for reattachment.

In April, a six-year-old girl, Nurhayada Sofia squeezed into the gap between the top of an escalator and the balcony wall. The moving escalator rail, carried her forwards, before she plunged five stories to her death. Her mother had been preoccupied by an argument with her father. He had phoned Nurhayada’s mother to enquire as to their whereabouts, because they had gone shopping without telling him.

Both these incidents happened in a shopping complex, where plenty of people were milling around. It took the children mere seconds to escape from their parents, but the consequences of their parent’s inattention, will last forever.

In 2007, 8-year-old Nurin Jazlin Jazimin asked her mother if she could go to a nearby night market to buy some hair accessories. Her mother assumed that Nurin would take her younger sister to walk the short distance to the pasar.

A person, or persons unknown, abducted Nurin and dumped her body in a sports holdall on the five-footway, outside a shop, a month later. She had been raped and an aubergine and cucumber stuffed into her rectum. Her killers are still free.

How can a parent ensure their child’s safety, especially when they are shopping? Below are some common sense tips, to protect young children and teenagers.

  • Tell your child not to talk to strangers, even if they offer sweets or a present.
  • Tell your child that he must not go off with an adult, however nice they might be and even when they say they are friends of the child’s parents.
  • Tell your child that he should tell you about conversations with strangers.
  • Tell them who to approach, if they are lost. They must only approach a policeman, a security guard, another adult with children or the person working in the shop.
  • If possible, place your name and telephone number on a card which the child can carry at all times, or make the child memorise these details.
  • You must always be vigilant and keep the children in your sight, at all times.
  • Make sure you hold his hand all the time, or, put reins on your child, so that he has the freedom to move, but is tethered to you at all times.
  • Ensure that if your child is out, he is with a responsible adult, who knows how to deal with children. Some adults do not realise that young children cannot gauge dangers.
  • Make sure that the child knows where to go, if you become separated. A possible meeting point is the information desk, if the child is old enough to know how to go there.
  • Make sure you dress your child in bright colours to make him stand out from the crowd. Some people attach a helium balloon to the child’s hand, so that they can see the location of the child, if they get separated.
  • If your child has to go to the toilet, make sure you accompany him. Do not let him go to the toilet on his own. 
  • Always hold onto your child’s hand, if you are on an escalator and steady them, especially when they are about to step on, or off, the escalator.
  • Never allow your child to enter a lift, on his own.