Should parents of oversexualised children face criminal charges?


Even though the problem in real terms is still blessedly small, it has increased a lot of late.

Secondary principals grappling with the growing problem of sexual images being shared by students want parents held liable for their teens’ misconduct.

They also want police to have a more consistent approach to such activity when told about it by schools.

School is out for another three weeks, but when it restarts teens know it’s not just innocent holiday snaps that’ll be shared in the playground. The sharing of sexual images, what the kids know simply as “nudes”, is a growing issue in schools.

“It’s definitely on the rise,” says NetSafe executive director Martin Cocker. “You’re seeing kids who have got access to all the tools to capture and share this kind of content, and in the environment that they’re living in they’re seeing this kind of thing done all the time.”

With sexual images of anyone under 18 being illegal, and the victims, usually girls, often suffering lasting psychological damage, principals say one solution could be to prosecute negligent parents.

“Principals have told me there are some parents who are told directly that their children are engaging in this sort of behaviour, which amounts to cyber bullying, sexual harassment and sometimes sexual assault,” says Patrick Walsh, former Secondary Principals’ Association president. “They give them the evidence and some parents either acquiesce or condone their child’s behaviour.”

The problem also exists at primary schools, although to a lesser extent.

Do you agree?  Is prosecuting neglectful parents the next best step?

– 3 News


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  • KGB

    Being old fashioned, I don’t approve of children having cell phones at all. Even 5 year olds are given phones. Parents think it’s cute that their kids are so clever with the technology, but fail to monitor the use. So yes, prosecute the parents.

    • I do agree. IMHO the safety issue of having a cell phone is far outweighed by the risk of cyber bullying and access to porn. I remember my dad telling me that porn was boring but it took me a long time to see what he was getting at. In my day such porn as we had access to was blurry black and white images of girls wearing huge bras and panties with 10 inch sides! The issue today is that anyone can take instant pictures of ‘friends’ and circulate them via their phones. What used to be an anonymous and somewhat sleazy activity suddenly has become close and personal.
      We need to be aware what is happening and as parents take an active role in our child’s sex education. No point in prosecuting parents for failing in this unless the schools help parents with the language and resources they need to handle this difficult topic.

  • Richard Holden

    In truth it is the parent who is responsible, however the schools have abrogated parental responsibility in many areas. I would have the school confiscate the phone and report the activity to the police, and the parents and children held accountable. Sharing underage images is also known as pedophilia

    • HB

      This is what already happens. Parents are always phoned. Parents are advised to make a complaint to the police. If something has happened while the student is in loco parentis (for the school) then the students will also be dealt with by the school. The school will also ring the police. We do confiscate the device but the image is often already ‘out there’. Some of the girls sending ‘nudes’ come from really good, loving families and it constantly surprises us how many ‘good’ kids get caught up in this stuff. Very horrible, degrading and damaging.

    • LovetoTeach

      There are certain guidelines around search and seizure that schools have to follow and you can’t just confiscate a phone, it has to be surrendered to you. You can take it if you think a crime has been committed (I think) but, as the item on the news last night about this pointed out, the police haven’t got a consistent approach to responding to these kinds of things.

      And yes, I think the parents should be held responsible IF they know it’s happening and aren’t willing to help solve the problem.

  • Mechanical Gear

    In the broadest sense I agree. Not in every case is a parent neglectful, but certainly where neglect/abuse can be established then parents should be punished. I once had a staff member who over sexualized her daughters. She would flirt around them and post sexualized photos of them on Facebook and say “isn’t she sexy”. Once her daughter asked her “How would you feel if I used my body like this to sell stuff?” The mother replied “When you’re 16 you can do what you like.”

    There were other things too horrible to mention, but long story short parents like that shouldn’t be parents.

  • Simon

    So a 17 year old kid sends a photo of a nude girl to his mate and its his parents fault? I don’t think so.

    • ex-JAFA

      If he’s legally a child, any crime he commits (“making an intimate recording”) is the responsibility of his guardian(s).

      • Simon

        Maybe in your mind

      • caochladh

        If the “children do the crime, the parents do the time” was enforced, (I believe) it would see a drop in the feral behaviour that is a curse in this country where the children and the “parents” give two fingers to the law.

      • SP

        Are you claiming this is currently the case? Or suggesting it should be?

        • ex-JAFA

          I rather thought it was the case, but checking today I can only see the ages at which children can be held liable for various crimes. I couldn’t find any reference to liability where the offender themselves are not.

    • dgrogan

      Storm in a tea cup? I wonder.
      In my day, we passed around “dirty” books. The difference I guess was anonymity. These days, you’re kids may be involved in the publication of the material and others are likely to know who subjects being exhibited are.
      It’s a whole different situation these days.

    • Sunshine

      Well the parents certainly should be sorting their kid out if that sort of thing is happening – it’s called “parenting”

  • Wheninrome

    The technology that was going to keep our kids safe. “The children need to be able to get hold of me when they want”. “The children ring when they want a ride home”. “The children use their phone to keep safe”. “I am happier knowing they have a phone and can get hold of me” Yeah right.
    What is wrong with children being told at what time parents will pick them up and to be ready and not keep mum/dad waiting. They do not need a phone to do this. Why do they need a phone at school? Sport practice finishes at the same time each time. Either bus home or be picked up at that time, no need to ring and say I am ready now pick me up.
    Mobiles are leading to all sorts of issues that are far worse that little Johnny’s parents being a little late picking him up. Bullying, shared “photos” etc., etc.,
    It is in the parent’s hands to sort this out. If they can’t then the school should confiscate the phone, hand to the police if they think something wrong has transpired.
    Schools should make a strong rule about phones. Mention they will check all phones/pictures etc, confiscated and I think you would see a change.

    • ex-JAFA

      We managed without cellphones In My Day. Pre-arranged pickup times/places as you suggest, and public telephones or the kindness of strangers for anything unexpected.

      • dgrogan

        The ‘kindness of strangers’ these days would be too much of a risk, sadly.
        The technology is here now, the market is saturated, and there’s no going back. We have to find ways we can all live with it.

        • ex-JAFA

          That’s sadly true, which is why I qualified it with “In My Day” – you know, back when crime was illegal.

          • Wheninrome

            Is it not also about parents regaining the role of “parent” and making decisions for their children in their best interests? Or is that battle lost as well?

    • Sunshine

      The fact that many parents have no idea what their children view or do online or on their phones astounds me.

  • rossrock59

    schools have already become party to sexualizing children with them obtaining abortion’s for children without parents knowledge.And with the desire to give even more adult information to children of younger and younger age’s with increase’s in sex education,i think the horse has well and truly bolted

    • Simon

      Here we go blame sex education… thats lame. Do you really think say a normal 10 year old does not know about sex? I did and I was 10 in 1979, my mates told me. I think it would have been far better to have had sex ed at school.

  • Murray Smith

    Technology has advanced far more quickly than we as a species can handle. Children are exposed to it from an early age. It’s little wonder that children are its victims.

  • luke

    Prosecuting parents of children under 16? Absolutely. Last year I was a mentor for a 14 year old boy, what he told me about ‘nude’ pics and sexting in general was beyond belief. A video of a girl of just 13 performing a sex act on a 16 year old boy was passed around the school and this was common knowledge. I contacted the principal and he reassured me they were investigating but nothing seemed to happen. Parents should check at random what is stored on the phone/ipads/computers and protect their children.

    • Pharmachick

      Contact the principal CC: the local bobby.

      I know that sounds like a throw-away line, but I’m actually serious. If you have documentary evidence that you’ve already tried to mitigate this AND you’re being stonewalled by a “reputation of the school” or some other type AND you’re sufficiently concerned (I would be, personally, with a 13 year old girl) then the local police may well have an interest. And it may well be in the community’s best interest. How many GOOD people like you reported the Roastbusters before it hit the headlines (ahem, probably a bad example as the police didn’t cover themselves in glory there, but you know what I mean).

      • luke

        I couldn’t do that because it would cause untold damage to the kid I am mentoring. If I had evidence then I could pass it on to the police. The most important thing I hoped to communicate was all of us should monitor what our children do online. This is the only way we can keep them safe or at least as much as is possible.

        • Pharmachick

          I completely understand what you’re saying, and also the dilemma you are in. I would respectfully ask that you watch this:

          and that you take note of the most important message contained within it: “Behaviour we are willing to walk past, is behaviour we are willing to accept”

          • luke

            I agree, at the same time there is a great deal I cannot say in a public forum. Also I cannot and will not betray the trust of the person who told me about the incident. He is vulnerable enough and if he was exposed, no matter how small the risk – the consequences could be catastrophic.

  • JC

    One of the first things concerned parents learn when they use the Tough Love program is it isn’t their fault.. bad kids occur in good families as a matter of course because of the environment that they learn and play in. Those kids are exercising a choice approved by their peers, they are mostly not victims but out for a good time.

    Since the 1960s all Western kids have been exposed to a liberal agenda over which parents have little control, the kids are sexualised from the age of 5-7 and what may appall their parents is simply the natural result of a system that mixes kids of all backgrounds together at school.. all very democratic but highly exposed to kids from not deprived so much as depraved families.

    So most of these kids arent victims, they are simply growing up in a system that is only just starting to understand the consequences of decisions made decades ago.


  • TonyM

    At the risk of getting in trouble for being conservative and draconian as a parent there are solutions possible

  • Steve (North Shore)

    This is all John Key’s fault

  • SP

    Sorry but this sounds utterly ridiculous! There are already laws for child neglect / abuse that can be used against such parents. How could gummint possibly write a law that covered the situations of parents being held criminally responsible for the actions of their child? We don’t even hold adults responsible if they are aware a crime is going to be committed and don’t do anything about it.

    Criminalising children and young persons over this type of behaviour WILL NOT WORK it is human nature and a genetic survival trait to be curious about all things sex. Modern technology has (un?)wittingly provided an unfortunate medium for the expression of such curiosities.

    IMHO the real problem is what I call the Kardashian Syndrome – the desire to be famous for being famous and an ability to excel at absolutely nothing but self promotion. Teens these days are bombarded by hyper-sexualised images of glorified celebrities who seemingly have everything without seeming to have to do anything! That’s a message that sounds pretty attractive to teens…

    Rather than duck shoving the responsibility off onto someone else, how about teachers think more about how to play their part in teaching kids the unpalatable (to some) truth that you’re going to have to work pretty hard throughout your life to get the things you want – both material and emotional!

    edit: spelling & grammer

    • Aucky

      I agree with most of what you say apart from the last para. That is the parent’s role not the state’s.

      • SP

        I agree but would argue that schools have a “part” to play in this as well.

  • The Accountant

    Lets put it another way. If a child commits murder, manslaughter, arson, GBH, breaking and entering, etc, then we charge the parents with the same charge? Nope. Great idea, but the community (or parts of it) would be up in arms about it. I live in ridiculous hope.

  • kiwihornplayer

    The boys and girls have got two choices. Keep their pants on and their shirts buttoned up. Anything barred for display voluntarily – get over it.

    Anything else is a criminal offence and should be dealt with accordingly.

  • intelligentes candida diva

    Parents must be held accountable for their children under age 16 simple. If images are circulating of their child in sexual acts then someone needs to be held accountable.
    However I think an approach similar to parents ultimately being charged for their childs truancy would be the realistic approach its not a black or white type decision.