A little girl is wandering the streets of Brooklyn, New York, alone. After asking several strangers to help her find her "mommy", she is eventually preyed on by a paedophile, who tugs at her shirtsleeve, luring her away from the busy street. It sounds like either your worst nightmare or an abominable plot device for the latest B movie – but it's neither of these.
It's an experimental video released by YouTube prankster Dennis Chuyeshkov, aka DennisCeeTv, which, thanks to its disturbing ending, has now gone viral.
Before being whisked away by the 'paedophile' (the veracity of the film has not been established), the 10-year-old girl, Talie, is either graciously helped or utterly ignored by passersbys.
'Would You Help A Lost Child?' has garnered 9,212,492 views to date, meaning a wealth of advertising funds for its creator, yet it does nothing to educate youngsters on what to do should a suspect stranger pounce, or better yet – how to avoid one altogether.
Thankfully, Katharine Cook, child and family psychologist, has some tips. In terms of preschoolers, adequate supervision is key. Also, don't get all good/evil on them, that is, normal people-good, paedophiles-bad. Cook explains: "all it does is create abnormal levels of anxiety and it makes them fearful of the world."
When it comes to older kids, should they stray from you, Cook upholds police advice to seek help from within a police station, school, or shop instead of randomly approaching strangers.
It's also about emotional intelligence, which is fostered in kids by "helping them understand different feelings and how those different feelings affect their bodies", says Cook, for instance, a 'worried tummy' or 'feeling hot when angry'. "When children become emotionally intelligent, they're able to respond better to what they like and what they don't like."
Teaching kids these skills is undoubtedly important, though the YouTube clip seems to suggest there's a paedophile around every corner. It is just the latest in a series of fear-mongering 'naive child'-type video experiments. Earlier this year, another YouTube trickster, Joey Salads, attempted to 'abduct' several children from a playground with their parents' permission. Again, the results were disquieting. Yet it's important to note that "...the chances of them being hurt by cars or buses or falling off play equipment is much much much much much more likely than a paedophile nabbing them... as long as they're being supervised, they're actually relatively safe from risks in the world", says Cook.
Nonetheless, Cook maintains that "children who are vulnerable, isolated and already experiencing a great deal of distress in their life" are at a much higher risk of being abused.
She recommends a preventative strategy: "parents can build a good relationship with their children, help them build their emotional intelligence, they're really protective factors."