What about the kids?

Media Matters in NZ | Monday, 03 November 2008

The latest crime statistics show once again that while overall crime is declining, crimes of violence involving young people continue to rise.

Research, dating back forty years, shows kids exposed to repetitive violent imagery are more likely to see violence as a solution to their problems. Thus we have one of the accused in the death of Nia Glassie reported in the Dominion Post as having stolen a Play Station and then acted out on what he saw. [Some of this is mentioned in the Dominion Post online, in articles dated 22 October 2008 and 29 October 2008.] Violent video games and gratuitous sex and violence portrayed on the Internet, contributes to a society in NZ which the former Chair of the Families Commission in NZ, Dr Prasad, has called "a culture of violence." It is time people in NZ woke up to the fact that we have the least regulated electronic media environment in the world and the connection between this and youth crime can no longer be ignored.

While the cause of this is admittedly complex, it is a fact that our children are immersed daily in a moral swamp of gross and vicious imagery of gratuitous sex and violence, and the political parties here are either unaware, untroubled, or both.

Unlike New Zealand, other countries have legislated. The US Federal government recently introduced two new pieces of legislation — the 'Protect Our Children Act' and the 'Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators Act', which primarily target child pornography via the creation of an 'Internet Crimes Against Children' task force, with funding for a forensic lab to track child exploiters, and a requirement for social networking sites to check email addresses against a federal database of sex offenders.

Similarly, the new Labour Government in Australia has recently introduced similar legislation into the Federal Parliament requiring Internet Service Providers to block child pornography and this, ironically, has been met by a great hail of criticism claiming this is encroaching on the civil rights of those who want to watch whatever they want unhindered. One of the advocates of this, Dale Clapperton (on-line civil liberties group, Electronic Frontiers Australia), has been in NZ in the last week, drumming up support and has been interviewed on Morning Report on National Radio on Tuesday, 28 October 2008, to help publicise his cause, which is essentially the right to watch child porn.

What about the rights of children and young people to be protected from internet sex predators? And when is a politician in this country going to admit there is a problem and do something about it, as Kevin Rudd, has done across the Tasman?

New Zealand has no legislative system for protecting children from predators on the net.   There is a database of convicted sex offenders, found on the  Sensible Sentencing Trust website, but unfortunately the information is limited due to name suppression legislation.   In addition, public chat rooms fail to monitor their own 'Code of Conduct' to ensure sex offenders do not have free unadulterated access to their services and by default, our children.

Once upon a time New Zealand used to be envied for innovative acts to protect the civil rights of its citizens — So why are we so slow to protect our most precious investment?

[ Contact — John Terris, President: Tel. (04) 5663175 ]