The NSPCC in Northern Ireland have issued a number of guidelines for child safety in the wake of recent incidents in Mid Ulster.
Echoing the sentiments of police, the charity’s head of service Neil Anderson said: “Although it is not of much comfort to the family involved in this case, I would like to reassure the public that these incidents are relatively rare.”
Mr Adnerson said that getting the balance right between keeping children safe and giving them the freedom to become confident and independent isn’t always easy.
“You can start teaching children simple rules about personal safety from as young as two or three. Tell them clearly that they must never go off with anyone, not even someone they know, without first asking you or the adult who is looking after them.
“It’s difficult to set an exact age when it’s safe for children to be out alone. Around the age of eight or nine they may want to be more independent and be out with friends, but parents and carers must first make absolutely sure they can cope and have developed road sense. Children who are less mature, or those with a disability may not be safe out alone until they are much older.”
He added:“When they are mature enough to be out alone, make sure they tell you who they are going out with, where they are going (if possible get a phone number where you can reach them), and when they will be back.
“No matter how much you teach your child about safety, remember the limits of their age and maturity, and let them know that you will always take them seriously and do whatever you can to keep them safe.
For more advice and tips visit www.nspcc.org.uk, or if you have concerns about a child, call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.