Belfast Telegraph

Belfast mum's horror as stranger contacts girls on walkie-talkie Christmas presents

Girls left petrified as mystery man quizzes them over their toy two-way radios

By Claire Williamson

A mother has told how her young daughters were left panicked by a man who made contact with them over toy walkie talkies she had bought for Christmas.

The Belfast woman explained how she purchased her seven and eight-year-old children the Binatone 100 pink two-way radios.

But she was horrified after they were contacted by a man via the devices, asking their names and where they were located.

Sharon - who didn't want to give her full name - said her youngest daughter was left very distressed and terrified that the man knew her identity.

"She was breaking her heart and said: 'I think he knows my name because he was listening to us playing'," Sharon said.

"She went to bed in an awful state, worried sick."

The walkie talkies have been taken off the youngsters.

They are advertised on Toys R Us as an "easy and fun way of communicating without paying a connection fee, line rental, or call charge", and have "eight channels for improved security".

They have a range of up to two miles (3km) "depending on environment and terrain".

Sharon purchased hers on Amazon.

On Christmas Day the family was working out how to use them when they picked up friends across the estate on one of the channels.

They changed the channel on both sets so the children could enjoy talking to one another.

Sharon thought it would be fun for them to talk to each other when one was at their granny's and the other at home.

But, to her horror, the seemingly innocent purchase turned sinister.

While Sharon's daughters were close-by at their granny's, they messaged her in a panic saying a man had been talking to them on the radios, asking them where they were, asking their names, and telling them it was okay to talk to him.

Sharon immediately told them to turn off the devices.

The girls said the man continued to follow them through the other channels as they tried to lose him.

They had told him they weren't allowed to talk to strangers.

Sharon explained: "When they were telling him 'we aren't allowed to speak to you' he kept coming up the channels after them - that's what got me.

"Had he been messing around on his daughter's walkie talkie he would have immediately changed channels when you could tell they were children.

"He kept following them right up to channel eight. He was asking where they were from and saying it was okay to talk to him.

"But they (the children) know it's not, and I'm so glad they turned the walkie talkies off."

Sharon said she was glad that she and her husband had drilled into the girls the 'stranger danger' message, and urged other parents to do the same.

"They are not allowed on the internet without our permission," she said.

"We have it drummed into them 'stranger danger', and it shows it pays off, because God knows what could happen."

Police confirmed they had received a report of the incident.

Sharon said she initially had been worried about the internet and her children, but now feels there are now few things which don't present risks.

"It shows children can't do anything. I'm always worried about the internet, but really that's not all we have to be worried about. It's everywhere," she said.

The Belfast mum added she was still anxious about what happened, and had been contacted by other parents who had experienced the same thing.

She said it was particularly worrying that whoever was speaking to her children was within the two-mile range the devices operate in.

"I'm shaken, but more cross, and thankful that my husband and I have drummed it into them not to talk to strangers, and to tell us straight away," she said.

Following the incident Binatone issued a statement advising parental supervision when young children using the devices. They advised for the user to be aware of who they are talking to and if the person is unknown to end the conversation and tell someone straight away.

It said: “The Binatone Latitude 150 Twin Walkie Talkies have been designed for simple two-way use for all ages. These products work using open frequencies and offer eight channel functionality. In the case of younger children, we recommend that these should be used under supervision.

“There are steps that can be taken to ensure general safety, such as regularly switching channels when using the products and to establish a call pattern, such as a specified channel and/or time, that only associated users are aware of.

“As in this reported case, it’s important that the user is aware of who it is they are talking to. If this person is unknown, end the conversation and tell someone straight away. If necessary, do report this to the authorities. We recommend that parents and guardians can also teach children how to handle situations and to avoid sharing private information, such as locations, addresses and personal data.”

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