How to Talk to Kids about Safety

And Introducing Happy Go KL’s Book Club: The Widow by Fiona Barton

We take a break from our focus on all things Happy to Reality today. A disturbing case of a British pedophile who preyed on vulnerable and very young children here in Malaysia for many years was recently uncovered. He was charged with multiple charges for abusing over 200 children and sentenced for 22 life sentences in the UK.

kids safety

Whilst I have talked about safety with my children, both online and off, I am sometimes worried that they may not understand the gravity or seriousness of my message. Giving a series of ‘Dos and Don’ts’ may not have the necessary impact on their young minds. Or perhaps, they may be confused. What if a person in a position of power, authority or familiar to them makes them do things that they are not supposed to, especially as they grow older and face more time away from home with after school activities, camps, sports meets and so on.

There are various reference that provide ideas on how to educate and empower children about safety. In KL, PS The Children and Project Layang-Layang run various workshops and awareness sessions.

I also find fiction extremely useful. Stories humanise the message and allow you to relate. Stories also stay with you longer. The Widow by Fiona Barton brings out message about paedophilia in a powerful way. The plot is eerily reminiscent of the Malaysian incident where the police task force trawled ‘under the radar’ chatrooms to identify offenders. This is not a book for children, but the story can serve as a good platform to narrate the message.

What is it about?

Glen Taylor is accused of kidnapping and killing 2-year-old Bella Elliott. Whether he did or did not do it is uncovered from the perspectives of his wife, a journalist and a police officer. This is because Glen Taylor is now dead – he has been run over by a bus. His wife, who is most closely affected by the incident, describes how she watches Glen doing his ‘nonsense’ –  he spends hours in the dark corners of the internet in his home and in darkened internet cafes.

When Bella Elliott’s mother unthinkingly posts photos of Bella online and reveal where they live, it is an invitation to the world of Glen Taylor. How incredibly easy it is for chat rooms and social media to be used as access for perpetrators. It is staggering. The police reaches to this world in a very meticulous way – posing in the chat rooms as a member and systemically uncovering evidence. This is really reminiscent of the real life case of uncovering the British paedophile, Richard Huckle.

Barton is great writer who delves into this criminal world with a deft hand. She also discusses the role of the media and how it sensationalises news. Barton herself is a journalist and these parts of the story kept me at the edge.

What I told the children 

I told them the story about 2-year-old Bella Elliot and her mother and how Bella was playing outside and was snatched. Bella’s mother had posted pictures and chatted with strangers online. Do you think that’s a good idea?

And then, I described Glen Taylor. The truth is that he can look like anyone  and they must be careful of the Glen Taylors of the world. They can be anywhere. They also need to know that they can ask for help.

In so many ways, The Widow is a dark book and the world it inhabits is a deeply unpleasant one.  But if children are not exposed to this reality, they may not know that danger can lurk very close by.

The Widow

The Widow by Fiona Barton  (2016) is also available at Borders. The Book Club will be a regular series with a special focus on books on children as well as books that give us perspectives on Asia. If you have any reviews, do share with us!

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3 Responses

  1. Hi, my family is thinking of moving to KL from Singapore. I’ve been warned about child snatching from some of the expats over here. Is this a concern? I understand that KL will not be as safe as Singapore. Any thought from someone living there now would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Melissa! Occasionally there are stories of snatching, but I am aware of one case of an expat child being kidnapped in KL in the past years, reported in the press. While child trafficking surely is an issue in the region and Malaysia, most expats feel risks in the traffic for example are far greater than child snatching. This of course is just the gut feeling we have, for real statistics you may want to contact your embassy. All in all, we feel as safe as in any big city: we keep our eyes open and the kids at an arm’s reach but don’t loose any sleep over safety – at least for now. There has been talk about security after the recent bomb in Puchong, but that is a different topic alltogether. I personally would not say no to moving to KL based on safety concerns at the moment, but obviously it’s a decision every family has to make. Hope this helps!

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