Crime shock: NZ’s little thugs

NZ Herald Apr 4, 2011

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. Forty-four of the 64 were boys. Four children were apprehended for serious assaults causing injury, and 52 for common assault. There were also more assaults in the 10-13 age group – there were 827 apprehensions last year, against 770 in 2009. Again, the majority of offenders were boys.

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.” 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.” Ms Chatwin said recent cases of bullying in which attacks had been filmed and put on the internet for all to see proved violence was becoming more acceptable among young people.