IT is shocking that many parents still take their children’s safety and wellbeing for granted.

A recent case in Sungai Petani comes to mind. A man was caught sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl in a video clip that went viral. Investigations revealed that the man was a family friend.

The man had gone to the woman’s house in Sungai Lalang at 11pm on Saturday and asked if he could take the child out to buy some food. He brought the girl home about two hours later, according to the police.

Now, there are two major concerns here. One, the child should have been safe and sound asleep in her room at that hour. Yet it is not uncommon to see many children that age in public areas, sometimes with their parents.

Many Malaysian parents are not too concerned about their children’s need for sleep and allow them to stay up way past their bedtime.

If you visit mamak stalls, pasar malam or shopping malls, chances are you will see children happily running around late at night. It pains me to see this because getting sufficient rest is crucial for a child’s brain development.

It makes me wonder when they will finally go to bed and if they’re able to wake up early the next day to go to school. Will they be able to stay awake during class? Primary school children need between eight and 10 hours of sleep.

As parents, it’s our duty to ensure they are in bed by 9.30pm. Make this a habit. Soon, they will get used to it and will voluntarily excuse themselves for bed on their own accord.

I cannot stress enough the benefits of a good night’s sleep and how it can ensure concentration and keep the brain sharp the next day. If the poor girl’s parents had practised this, she would not have been going off in the middle of the night with the predator. Instead, she’d be asleep in her own bed.

This leads to my second concern: How could the mother allow a man — even if he’s a family friend — to take her little girl out alone?

We must also be aware that sexual predators are a very determined lot. They can practise patience just to gain the trust of the family as well as that of the child.

Often times, this takes months or even years. It’s called sexual grooming. This grooming involves befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child and sometimes the family, to lower the child’s inhibitions with the objective of sexual abuse.

It seems the mother trusted the man fully but he betrayed that trust. There are lessons to be learnt from cases like these.

Sexual assault and molestation are very real threats in our society today. If we think that our family is safe from this, think again. We must never let our guard down be it with a family friend or an outsider when its comes to our children.

We must teach our children to not simply trust anyone. Educate them to identify the red flags and danger signals, and instruct them on how to seek help when faced with uncomfortable situations.

There are plenty of resources out there for our benefit. There’s really no need for our children to end up as another tragic statistic and suffer unduly due to our apathy.

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