Is there no limit to our willingness to delegate our parental responsibilities to politicians?

And is there no limit to politicians' misguided belief that they, even those who have never raised a child, can do a better job than parents?

The answer to both questions seems to be no. We saw that when Helen Clark's Government, with National's connivance, deprived parents of their right to administer corporal punishment in any but the most extreme circumstances, an inevitable progression of an earlier government's decree that corporal punishment had no place in schools.

'If politicians over the years have proved one thing it is that they don't have the solution to anything when it comes to raising children in an environment that gives them the best chance of growing into healthy, well-adjusted adults.'

That, we were assured, was the key to developing a gentler, more caring society. Like lowering the drinking age would lead to a more mature attitude towards alcohol. We're still waiting for both.


In more recent times we've had government and other agencies telling parents that it's okay if they don't want to feed their kids, 'We will.' It's okay if they don't want to buy them shoes or raincoats, 'We will.' It's okay if they don't want to buy them toothbrushes and paste, and teach them how to use them, 'We will.'

Now we are about to see politicians wave their magic wand to address the issue of children watching pornography, and developing their attitudes towards sexual relationships, and relationships in general, based on what they 'learn' from it.

How they plan to do that is yet to be revealed, but we can be sure that whatever they do it will have no effect. The immediate call to extend the sex education curriculum into the realm of showing respect for others, presumably focusing on boys' attitudes towards girls, certainly doesn't inspire hope.

If there was any reason for optimism, we would already have seen political solutions to problems arising from children's access to tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs.

If politicians over the years have proved one thing it is that they don't have the solution to anything when it comes to raising children in an environment that gives them the best chance of growing into healthy, well-adjusted adults. They can't even organise a system to ensure that all children attend compulsory education.

Children and pornography is another issue that belongs to parents. Sadly, it is true that many parents don't give a tinker's cuss about what their children watch on their myriad devices and/or the attitudes they form towards other people as they grow up. Parents really are the answer, however, and looking for a solution elsewhere is pointless.

The writer is not intimately familiar with the process taken by children, including, we are told, a great many pre-teenagers, to find pornography, but someone has to be paying for it. Pornography, like a lot of other 'entertainment' these days, does not come free. So if a 12-year-old has developed a taste for this stuff, who's paying for it? Their parents, presumably. The same parents who, we are invited to believe, are powerless to protect them.

It wasn't always like this. There was a time when parents were all-powerful, and New Zealand was a much better place for that. Within a couple of generations we seem to have swung from believing that parents were the first and effectively only authority when it came to raising kids to believing that Wellington knows best, and should be left to get on with it.


One stands to be corrected, but surely every parent in this country has the ability to protect their children from pornography? If it is arriving via television, block the channels. That takes a matter of seconds. Or stop buying those channels. Or get rid of the television set. If it arrives via some other device, get rid of it.

The same goes for cyber bullying. That problem can be solved by introducing the device to a hammer, or any other implement that is heavy enough to instantly turn said device into e-waste. It beggars belief that so many of us give our kids technology that can do them harm, then appeal to Parliament to protect them.

Or just wring our hands and suffer in silence until the problem eventually comes to political attention in the hope that someone will do something.

Some, no doubt, don't even realise that their children's lives are being destroyed right in front of their eyes until they finally end up in jail, or dead.

Children watching pornography certainly isn't a new phenomenon. A friend told the writer years ago of children at the rural Far North primary school where she was teaching acting out the pornography they had seen. And it wasn't just one or two kids. It was most of them, boys and girls.

That was a Decile 1 school, incidentally. A school where the kids, and their parents, were officially living in poverty, but weren't too poor to have access to 'entertainment' that the children had no legal or moral right to watch.

Apparently the solution to this is to burden teachers with another responsibility, to teach kids not only the mechanics of human reproduction but the complex emotional issues involved in forming respectful, civilised attitudes towards other people, presumably leaning heavily towards encouraging boys not to see girls as pieces of meat.

We're not doing very well for a country whose politicians like to prattle on about giving every child a world-class education when some of them seem to be arriving at school with a pornography addiction, let alone suffering irreparable damage done by parents whose substance abuse and plain lack of any skerrick of intelligence or parental instinct should disqualify them from breeding.

The politicians who think they can fix this latest revelation need to recognise that many children in this country simply don't have a chance. And one day they will produce children of their own, whose fate will be equally predictable.

That's not something that can be fixed with legislation, although there must be room for a more comprehensive definition of child abuse than the one we're working with now, and a greater capacity for early state intervention.

Meanwhile, what we have now is almost certainly not as bad as it gets. Various voices in the wilderness have been warning for some time that child access to pornography has long been quietly laying the foundations for a societal nightmare.

It's not easy to argue against that when one considers how the behaviour of some young people has changed over the years. Every society evolves, of course, but the evolution that has been under way in this country for the last generation or two is alarming, and nothing is going to change that until parents begin taking responsibility for raising their children with much greater care, attention and love than some are doing now.

It's been said that baby boomers were oppressed by their parents, and there might be some truth in that. The Great Depression and World War II taught their parents some harsh lessons.

But that generation had massive advantages. Sixty years ago children tended to grow up within very strict boundaries. They were expected to learn by their parents' example, the concept of juvenile privacy was unheard of, and families protected their good names with a vengeance.

Politicians can't restore that. Only parents can. Some continue to practise it, and their children are the lucky ones.