North Shore police have warned parents against inaccurate posts on social media about children being approached by strangers.
The warning, which has been sent out via schools in Birkdale and Beach Haven today, follows a spate of at least six reports this year of children being approached. In four cases, the alleged offender was reported to have been driving a white van.
Northcote Intermediate School principal Ben Kelsey said one of the first incidents involving a white van, on February 15, was known to be accurate - but turned out to be innocuous.
He said the man driving the van simply offered an 11-year-old boy a lift to school because it was raining.
"He now realises how this could have been interpreted by the student, and subsequent
stress for him and his family," Kelsey wrote in a newsletter in February.
"That was not his intention and he is very sorry for all anxiety felt because of his actions in both our school and surrounding schools.
"Once he realised the seriousness of the situation he came to speak to me directly. He is a valued member of our community."
North Shore Police area commander Inspector Sunny Patel said police "have become aware of a number of social media posts on local Facebook pages that have contained inaccurate information regarding recent suspicious approaches to children".
"We would like to remind parents and family members of schoolchildren when posting information concerning these approaches, to ensure the content is accurate to avoid causing undue anxiety within our community," he said.
"Police acknowledge these posts are well-intentioned and their purpose is to inform other parents and ultimately protect children.
"However, inaccurate information can create unnecessary confusion and concern within our community. The posts also have the potential to result in misinformation being reported in the media and this is not helpful for anyone.
"Police would like to reassure the public that any matter concerning a suspicious approach to a child should be reported immediately. All matters are thoroughly investigated and police conduct sensitive interviewing techniques and work diligently to establish if there is any evidence of criminal intent.
"It can often be found that there is no sinister intent to the reports after thorough investigation."
Police advice to parents
• Teach your child how to get safely to and from school and other places they go - whether they walk, bike or go by bus.
• Make clear rules about getting home.
• Go to school with your child so that you can show them the safest route. Try to use main arterial routes with more people around and avoid walkways and isolated areas.
• Teach them to deal with hazards like narrow footpaths or busy roads.
• If they walk, make sure they always use pedestrian crossings.
• Who does your child walk home with? Meet the parents of children in your area and keep in touch.
• Teach the children to walk home together in twos or small groups, not alone.
• Make other arrangements if someone is away.