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Child crime and bullying

Written By: - Date published: 6:43 am, April 5th, 2011 - 41 comments
Categories: child discipline, crime, education, families, john key - Tags: ,

One of the Nats’ minor propaganda lines at the last election was drumming up hysteria about crime, particularly youth crime. John Key said they would “act now to defuse these unexploded human time-bombs, who are on the fast-track to Paremoremo”. It was mostly just rhetoric, and Key’s favoured solution of boot camps are having no effect. Instead, what we are seeing under Key’s government is an escalation of violence at an even earlier age, violence committed by children:

Crime shock: NZ’s little thugs

Criminal assaults by children of primary school age soared last year, and police were called to more than one case a week. Crime statistics show the number of children under 9 apprehended for assaults last year was 64, almost double the 33 recorded in 2009. … There were also more assaults in the 10-13 age group – there were 827 apprehensions last year, against 770 in 2009.

Houston, we have a problem. So what’s going on?

Psychologist Sara Chatwin said it was clear that exposure to violent television programmes led to more aggressive and violent behaviour in children. “More and more, we’re seeing this kind of stuff on the screens and children and young people have more access to it. A large percentage of this behaviour is copycat stuff.”

Yes, TV violence is a factor in the big picture, but it doesn’t explain a sudden increase last year.

Ms Chatwin said another reason children were more readily committing assaults was a breakdown in parental control. “Families under stress, parents under stress, parents working hard to feed their families, not having enough time to put into discipline, and kids being left to their own devices.”

That seems more likely. Families have certainly been under stress lately, and will be more and more so as National keeps hacking away at early childhood education, and punishing those at the bottom of the economic heap with ever increasing prices, GST increases, derisory increases in the minimum wage, anti-worker employment law and the like. Children are the canaries in the coal mine. When life gets tough for families, all too often it is the children that suffer first.

John Key doesn’t like to look bad. In particular, he needs the illusion that everything is just smile and wave fine in NZ to hold until the November election. Probably aware of these stats on child crime, he has used a couple of high profile cases of brutal bullying incidents to call for schools to crack down. Trouble is, Key wasn’t telling schools anything they didn’t already know, and weren’t already acting vigilantly on. Consequently, Key’s useless posturing didn’t go down too well:

Backlash at Key’s instructions on bullying

Prime Minister John Key’s order to schools to stamp out bullying has been slammed by parents and experts as a publicity stunt. One educational psychologist labelled his response an act of bullying itself. …

“The government modelled one of the most brazen acts of bullying I have witnessed outside of the schoolyard. Prime Minister John Key ordered boards of trustees and principals to be reminded of their responsibilities, threatening to bring the wrath of ERO on them if they do not act appropriately.

“Instead of asking what additional resources were needed to handle the issue or consulting with schools and families about why [current initiatives] are not being effective with bullying, they engaged in the same blame and shame policy they’re asking schools to use with families.”

While trying to push the blame on to school boards the Nats are, as per clueless usual, actually working to make the problem worse. Not only by the big picture economic attack on the poor, but with specific bungling such as cuts to early childhood education, and cuts to family violence funding.

Expect to see this problem getting worse. Expect to see John Key looking for new ways to try and pass the blame…

41 comments on “Child crime and bullying ”

  1. Nick K 1

    …but with specific bungling such as cuts to early childhood education, and cuts to family violence funding.

    …..and repeal of s59 of the Crimes Act.

    • r0b 1.1

      So you think the cause of violent behaviour in children is that we’re not beating them enough?  Interesting theory.

  2. higherstandard 2

    As far as words and terms cou’d go.

    All which he understood by rote,

    And, as occasion serv’d, would quote;

    No matter whether right or wrong,

    They might be either said or sung.

    His notions fitted things so well,

    That which was which he could not tell;

    But oftentimes mistook th’ one

    For th’ other, as great clerks have done.

    He could reduce all things to acts,
    And knew their natures by abstracts;

  3. chris73 3

    Backlash at Key’s instructions on bullying

    The fact they thought that John Key was bullying suggests they may not actually know what bullying is

    • ianmac 3.1

      Interesting chris. Were the girls featured on TV examples of bullying or straight out violent assault? Perhaps you could define bullying/assault in a black and white way.

      • chris73 3.1.1

        Violent assault so charges should be laid

        • joe90

          About the assault that was posted on youtube, there’s lots more to it than has been reported and from what I’ve been told the who did what to who parallels the Casey Heynes incident.

      • chris73 3.1.2

        (Wouldn’t let me edit my previous)
        The problem is of course that any time a union/govt department etc etc doesn’t like/approve of something the PM says then they claim bullying.
        However, like the boy that cried wolf, use it too many times and people start to realise whats what (like Chris Carter)

        • Draco T Bastard

          When the PM says that he will use the full weight of the law against an institute without even checking to see what needs to be done from his position within the government then it is clearly bullying.

        • Deborah Kean

          Bullying is not always physical! Did you not realise that?

  4. ianmac 4

    Psychologist Sara Chatwin said it was clear that exposure to violent television programmes led to more aggressive and violent behaviour in children.

    No Sara. There has been research done on this for years. There is very little evidence to support the argument. By far the greatest influence is the family and if positive family examples are missing, then example by peers, perhaps junior gangs, become the norm. (People who watch pornography are less likely to commit sex crimes.) And since violence on TV and film has been around for a generation or more it does not explain the events now.

    • M 4.1

      Concur, ianmac. In Japan there are many violent comics and video games but Japanese people do not seem to be axe murderers on the rampage. As indicated in ‘The Spirit Level’ the more and equal and cohesive a society, the better outcomes there are in almost every category. In NZ society, such high ideals I’m afraid are more fond memories. 

  5. vto 5

    “Miss Chatwin said another reason children were more readily committing assaults was a breakdown in parental control.”

    Well well well, is that a direct hit on Sue Bradford’s anti-smacking law?? It is clear that parents options for child control were reduced by her law. Perhaps the consequences have arisen rather rapidly? If so, lets just hope that child control measures that should fill the gap Bradford created will become part of our culture quickly. Perhaps Bradofrd herself could deal with this given it is her creation..

    Smacking as a child control measure has been removed from NZ society creating a gap. Simple.

    And it is naive in the extreme to expect that physical sanction should play no part in our society. It has done in near every society in near every century since the dawn of manwomankind. Our current situation in NZ (except that allowing such physical sanction by the State of course) is an anomoly. Perhaps it is then no surprise that other anomolies such as increasing child assaults have arisen..

    • r0b 5.1

      As above (1.1). Violence breeds violence, and beating children more makes them more violent not less.

      It’s much more likely, as per post, that family violence is on the increase, due to the economic stress that families are under in this brave new world.  Children follow role models – my guess is violence at home is creating more violent children.

      • vto 5.1.1

        I don’t know if it is that simple r0b. I understand your point but suspect that this may have arisen simply because child control measures, rightly or wrongly, have had a huge gap created in them by Bradford’s law. And that gap is putting out a smell until such time that it is repaired or filled or something..

        Or perhaps in combination with your point about tough times.

        • r0b

          “A huge gap” – do you really think so? Have parents really changed their behaviour?

          My guess is no. The only thing that has changed is that in the most extreme cases, when the police decide to prosecute, the accused parents have one less legal defence option than they used to have. My guess is that for the overwhelming majority of parents, the overwhelming majority of their behaviour hasn’t changed at all.

          I’ve got no data on this, and I’m interested in any data / links of course…

          • vto

            Yes I do think parental behaviour has changed. In my experience most would have used smacking to some extent and now they cannot, and don’t (most of the time). We are parents who have had to change a little and without doubt at times struggle with an alternative. Most parents struggle with child control without the smacking option, or rather without a useful alternative that they know and trust to work as well as smacking.

            Imo there is a gap (perhaps not “huge”) and as we all know nature abhors a vacuum. What is filling it? Well I don’t know but the subject of this thread offers a possibility.

            Links? Sorry, only links I have are to my wobbly opinions and anecdotes. (and fwiw its worth the anti-smacking law was a good move imo, it just has consequences thats all).

            • r0b

              My child raising experience was long long ago and I don’t know many young families these days, so you certainly have more personal and anecdotal evidence to draw on than me.

              But I’m sure I’ve seem some data on parental behaviour since s59 somewhere. No chance to chase it today, but will at some future time perhaps…

              • PeteG

                I doubt if it’s got much if anything to do with s59. The seeds of violence are much longer term, generational, and often ingrained in kids when they are young.
                The sort of violence we are seeing is possibly stress related, parents taking their stress out by bashing their kids, and those are the kids most likely to be bashing other kids, thugs tend to look for targets they think they won’t get a backlash from.
                It’s harder to be sure what is causing the stress that may be causing more violence. Job loss and money problems are known, as are seasonal influences like Christmas. Earthquakes may be another.
                We could blame nature for the earthquakes, or we could blame world finances for the recession, or we could blame the DPB for fragmented families, or we could blame people turning their backs on religion, but it’s easier to just blame the current government.

                • Colonial Viper

                  but it’s easier to just blame the current government.

                  Its easy to blame this Government for abandoning those families on less than $40,000 p.a. (the median wage) since that is what they are actually doing.


                • Draco T Bastard

                  We’re blaming the current government for not doing anything about the recession by helping those most in need and, in fact, making it even harder on those people by giving tax cuts to the rich and increasing taxes on the poor.

                • RobC

                  Pete, I will try and keep my criticism constructive (I will probably fail). Look at your post. It starts off with “I doubt if” … followed by “…is possibly related…”, then “it’s harder to be sure”, a couple of “may be” references, and ending up with a whole lot of “we could” statements.

                  Over the last couple of days, I’ve stated my opinion you “piss in the wind”. Look at your post. To try and keep this post short, basically you couch your opinions in language that allows you to express opinions without actually expressing them. That gives you the ability to deny you actually expressed an opinion in the first place.

                  If by design, I understand why others jump on you the way they do. If that is your intention, congratulations. However, I will draw the attention of moderators to this practice and ask they keep a close eye on it.

                  If by chance it is accidental, my respectful suggestion is to grow some balls and express what you actually believe in without using the language of a spineless snake.

                  [lprent: It isn’t part of the policy. Personally it rather amuses me as being poor technique because it gives rather a lot of room for sarcastic replies. It also tends to reveal someone as not knowing much worth listening to. They have few opinions worth arguing. Their style is that of those bloody silly debaters waffling about pointlessly. ]

                  • PeteG

                    I don’t call myself a viper.
                    I’m aware the way I express things pisses some people off. It may be an annoying manner. But often there are no definitive good/evil, yes/no, black/white answers that some seem to prefer and try and insist on. More often than not there are many shades of grey, and varied nuance,  if some people don’t think that way then too bad, I won’t go extreme just to keep them happy.
                    What I find amusing, this has happened on KB too, those who grizzled about me “sitting on the fence” were also those who grizzled when I stood up to their crap. Don’t worry, I can do strong when I feel like it. I’ve even had the occasional strong disagreement with DPF.
                    I have sometimes thought about what you’re getting at, and I think part of it is different ways people like to use blogs. You get one extreme like Redbaiter who always wanted to state his piece and would never debate it, that was his final word and he could only follow up with avoidance and abuse. I guess I’m the other side of that scale, I blog to learn, to discuss and to provoke thought and discussion, so I often don’t open with my final word, but an opening idea. Sure, sometimes it’s provocative and designed to push some buttons. But is it a discussion blog or a soapbox? It can be interesting and informative to see how a subject can progress, and I sometimes change my mind as I hear other views.
                    Some people using blogs start with a fixed and final view and hate  being challenged. And obviously some don’t like it when I challenge my own and other views on an ongoing basis. I am how I am, if I piss the wrong people off and they kick me off here then so be it. I won’t try and fit a mold.
                    One of the best things I’ve learnt on blogs is it’s very easy to ignore what you can’t be bothered with. If you so choose.

                    So I guess, taking your closing advice, pull your head in or get me kicked off.

                    • RobC

                      Upon reflection, my last sentence was overly-provocative and deserved your last sentence in reply.

                      I also accept that many issues are not black and white. I guess what annoys me (and perhaps others) is your approach adds to the hues of gray.

                      A good blog is a discussion forum, not a soapbox, I agree. I guess my point is too much vacillation at the expence of expressed opinion detracts, rather than contributes, to that ideal.

                      I have to pass the computer over to the stepdaughter, to be continued another time.

                    • PeteG

                      Something I have just been reminded about on another thread – a degree of pussyfooting may be a symptom of the ever felt presence of targeted moderation. You may not have had to experience it but it can be a real factor here.

                    • lprent []

                      Yep it is targeted alright. Comes down to our pure dislike of trolls, people who waste our time, and reading crap comments. To see why we do it, just look back to posts in late 2007 and early 2008. That was when I couldn’t be bothered reading comments here because thru were so boring. It was just like usenet when I had to give up reading the alt and later comp newsgroups.

                      But I can’t remember particularly targeting you as a moderator apart from your bad habit of quoting without linking. Which you seem to have corrected your behavior on these days

                    • ianmac

                      If it wasn’t for the contrary point of view we would all agree and the discussion would be over. It is helpful to know what the “others” think and sometimes the others such as Tsmithfield and Pete contribute ideas that give pause even if the socialist democrats disagree.
                      In the end though, it is them v us so tough. Up the Workers!  Workers Unite. Down with the NAct Government!

                    • felix

                      Pete. It’s nothing to do with actually sitting on the fence or actually not taking a binary position.
                      It’s nothing to do with expressing an opinion that’s unpopular here.
                      It’s nothing to do with being a victim of moderation (you’re not).
                      It’s that, as RobC said, you phrase things in a way that allows you to express quite extreme positions while pretending you haven’t.
                      And you know it.

                    • PeteG

                      No felix, you try to apply extreme meanings to what I say, and you know it. You just don’t want to accept that I’m not what you want to portray me as. You’ll get sick of the charade long before I stop being myself.
                      If you want to understand what hovering moderation is like try a stint somewhere like http://truebluenz.wordpress.com/ – you might also learn the difference between debate and berate from the other side of the coin, and get to experience having extreme interpretations (aka bullshit) applied to what you post. I managed to do a week there before I got bored with it.

                • Deborah Kean

                  “we could blame the DPB for fragmented families,”
                  I think you’ve got cause and effect muddled up there, Petey.

                  • felix

                    Perfect example of Pete’s duplicity.
                    See he didn’t actually say he believed that.
                    He slipped it in there with a bunch of givens, the context clearly indicating that he considers it a foregone conclusion.
                    But if you question him, he didn’t actually say it, did he?
                    His next move isn’t to deny it though, his next move is to argue the point as if he had said it.
                    Eventually he’ll contradict himself, and you’ll point it out, and then all of a sudden he never said any such thing to begin with.
                    And then everybody’s picking on him. Yawn.

        • Draco T Bastard

          I think you’re grasping at straws.
          Considering the lowering wages and increased stress of the last few years it’s likely that there has been an increase of violence (financial stress has been proven to be a driver of domestic violence) and also that people may be working longer hours and so no longer have the time to control the children.

          • vto

            hmmm, some straws all through this post methinks. Probably likely that this increase is a combination of factors, including the one you mention dtb. However, weren’t there some stats a few back indicating that violent crime had in fact dropped?

            It would be fascinating to know the true reason with some certainty. Combo of s.59, tough financial times, increased screen violence, increased child independence (e.g. cellphone), increased antipathy towards traditional authority, P, etc etc I suspect.

  6. randal 6

    bullying is not only endemic in our society it is epidemic too.
    it starts the moment anyone turns the telly on where nearly everyone uses interrogatives in both scripted and unscripted  conversation.
    this is a form of emotional bullying right at the heart of our culture and the rest follows.
    it is as common as coronation street and in daily use by politicians who want to others to agree with them.
    lie nise in our society start with the small things and the rest will follow but our society is so shallow and so flibbertygibbet that the prospect about doing anything positive is very remote. 

  7. joe90 7

    Off topic but a nephew and niece of mine really do behave like this.

  8. ianmac 8

    Crime statistics show the number of children under 9 apprehended for assaults last year was 64, almost double the 33 recorded in 2009. …

    A question has arisen on the validity/importance of the numbers of child violence in relation to the number of children.
    64 out of a child population of about 365,000 is not quite as bad as it seems. About .00017. However any kid exercising violence is a symptom of concern.

  9. fabregas4 9

    As to basic stress levels rising for families I think I live and work in a real bell weather community. Small, largely Maori community, rural, decile 1. The school breakfast club tells me a lot.  Two years ago I was thinking that it was no longer required – now just under one quarter of the school uses it every day.  Lunches are getting smaller and less healthy.  No surprise that our normally calm and learning focussed school has had a few more problems behaviour wise this term.  Additionally several families have returned to Northland from Auckland through lack of work and transience which had reduced to nil is back on the table. We usually ask for $20 school donation each year – this year very few have paid.  I brought a pair of my sons jeans that he had grown out of to give to someone at school and there was a whole heap of children after them.

    Times are harder that is surely true, my job has got harder because of it and we get reminded of our obligations!  I would love to remind Key and Tolley about their obligations.    

    PS: Thinking of getting a cardboard cut out of Key to overlook the playground saying “I demand that there shall be no bullying” – that should ensure that it never happens.

  10. randal 10

    hey if we talk about it long enough it will just go away!

  11. Samuel Hill 11

    Bullying levels could be lowered. The fact of the matter is that THERE HAS to be government leadership on this, because either way you are asking either a teacher or a parent to ‘control’ the behaviour of a child. If the government doesn’t do anything, then we will just have to pick up the tab later when these kids are robbing and bashing people down at the local shopping mall, rather than each other at school. This is basically what is happening right now. The government needs to start intervening to see children are being brought up to understand a differet set of morals, one different to the violent lives so many children are subjected to.

    Are we underestimating the event of corporal punishment being abolished? I don’t know, but Teachers are now helpless in the face of school violence. I remember seeing teachers punched and kicked at my school in the early 2000s. I was involved in one brawl at our school in 2003 where our two school security guards broke us up. I don’t know how many people realise that these kind of things have been going on for a long time, and just like the “P Epidemic” which gripped the media’s attention 3 years ago, they’re probably 10 or more years behind the eight ball. Fighting is always going to happen, just like drug use, but now with these American influenced gangs and cultures which have emerged over the last 10 or 15 years, and a Government so obsessed with adopting the American system in so many areas, it appears that these groups are being accepted as part of our being. We should have annihilated this culture before it could have entered our realm.

    How did you older generations let this happen? Why is the Baby Boomer generation so pussy?? Now they want everyone of Generation X,Y,Z to pay for their mistakes of debt and pollution, and neo-liberal economics. I don’t see many middle aged men standing up to say what they are doing to stop the problems youth have. Accept for that one silly prick asking students to pay back their loans. YOU PAY YOURS BACK CALLAGHAN.. Oh wait, thats right. You didn’t get one.

    Where are these middle aged men, people like John Key who got a free ride, with his STATE house and STATE education. Sure he might not have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth, but I bet his mother atleast was a good woman and I doubt he was subjected to eating cockroaches for lunch. They want to sell our country off. Key dreams of neo-pioneer spirit in our country, of entrepreneurship and a growing economy. We need capital to create financially viable ideas Mr. Key. We should just tick up as much debt as we can to get things doe. Really WHO CARES ABOUT DEBT. I’m not paying my Student Loan back, if National get rid of the interest-free loans, they may as well say goodbye to half that money owed to them, because most students will leave and won’t be back. Seriously, you think people won’t? And nevermind the people who will choose NOT to study and go to Aussie where they CAN get apprenticeships and better wages.

    People are falling through the cracks because the floorboards are rotten. How can we build a strong structure for our future when our base (the youth) are experiencing an experimental system of individualism which became the status quo. We have become passive consumers rather than hands on teachers and learners. I am not knocking teachers here, I am simply stating that the decay of community involvement has seen an alienation of certain values. There is a problem in our work places where young people can’t go out and get an apprenticeship. Firstly, there are no jobs, and secondly a lot of older people aren’t willing to help train these young ‘know-it-alls”  It is time for the real men and woman of New Zealand to stand up and lend a helping had, or offer their support to those with the resources to do so. Where are our role models standing up to tell people what is wrong and what is right. “Oh no we can’t tell people whats wrong and right” Bullshit. 

    All of you with a point of view should stand up and express it. You don’t have to be a genius to see where the problems are coming from in this country. When we choose to band together and address these issues directly, through action, instead of arguing with each other, then things might get done in this country.

  12. PeteG 12

    Bullying levels could be lowered. The fact of the matter is that THERE HAS to be government leadership on this…

    How? There is a lot of bullying in parliament, in politics generally, and on political blogs. There’s bullying on the roads. There’s bullying in homes. There’s widespread intolerance of anyone who’s different.
    All we need to do is convince kids they should do as some of us say, not as most of us do?

    • Samuel Hill 12.1

      Bullying when it comes to senseless attacks on weaker children is what I refer to. We should be defining to our children what constitutes a battle that should be fought, as compared to abusing your strengths via picking on the weak. Violent aggression against innocent participants in every day society is what I define as bullying. Bullying in parliament? Well thats to be expected, with grown men and women in a competitive democratic system. Bullying in blogs? Thats free speech, if they are bullying certain innocent individuals than we should call these people out and expose them for the bigoted dickheads they are. Bullying on the roads? Of course, thats why we have such incredibly bad statistics of road accidents and road deaths. Indeed we can looking to our driving, I would suggest, as a fair reflection of the immature responses and attitudes we use towards problems in this country. 

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