Sunday, August 31, 2008

Reference List

Air New Zealand. (2008). Travelling with children. Retrieved August 13, 2008, from the Air New Zealand website:

Australian Department of Education and Training. (2008). Changes to the leaving age. Retrieved August 24, 2008, from the Government of Western Australia website:

Bissett, K. & Williams, S. (2008). Kiddy criminals, 8, let off with warnings. Retrieved August 29, 2008, from The Daily Telegraph website:,,23942613-5001021,00.html

Deloatch, L. (2005). Alcohol matter of maturity, not age. Retrieved August 27, 2008, from the Nineronline website:

Everything for the Learner Driver. (n.d.). Retrieved August 24, 2008, from the 2pass website:

Laws, M. (2008). Teen babysitter sets example to some parents. Retrieved August 24, 2008, from the Stuff website:

Nichols, L. (2008). One in five quit school unqualified. Retrieved August 28, 2008, from The Dominion Post website:

Shepheard, N. (2008). A class act? Retrieved August 27, 2008, from The New Zealand Herald website:

The Department of Internal Affairs. (2008). How to get a marriage licence. Retrieved September 12, 2008 from:

Thomas, K. (2008). Alcohol main cause of face injury – surgeons. Retrieved August 28, 2008, from the Stuff website:

Williamson, E. (2005). Brain immaturity could explain teen crash rate. Retrieved August 24, 2008, from the Washington Post website:

Youth Crime Forum. (2007). If it takes a community to raise a child, how should we address youth crime? (2007). Retrieved August 24, 2008, from the Promote website:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

When is old enough?

Hi everyone.
This is my blog for iwrite on the topic of 'When is old enough?' It relates to my view that here in NZ we have a very complicated system with a variety of ages at which children and teenagers acquire the ability to legally do things. The current situation causes confusion and raises inconsistencies in many cases.

One suggestion I have which I think would make things less confusing, is if these differing ages were more unified, ie. if there were two agreed ages, say 16 and then 18, for teenagers/children to be legally able to do things, instead of the current situation where the ages range from 11 up to 18, with activities carrying responsibilities starting with the legal babysitting age of 14. Other activities to consider include leaving school, learning to drive, buying alcohol, etc. Michael Laws said recently: "You can solo care for a kid at 14, drive at 15, bonk at 16, be tried as an adult at 17 and drink alcohol at 18." (Sunday Star Times, Sunday, 27 July 2008). Consider also the voting age, marriage age (16 with parental consent) and the age at which a child can travel on a child's airfare (usually up to and including 11 years old). There is also the age at which a child can look after another child on an aircraft (15 years – compared with 14 years for babysitting on land) – this was the situation that prompted Mr Laws’ comment above.

Addressing these issues in the order in which they are hyperlinked above, commencing with the issue of leaving school: The Western Australian Parliament raised the school leaving age there in November 2005 from 16 to 17 years. If a student in Western Australia wishes to leave before they turn 17, they must enter an approved pathway, eg. an apprenticeship or full-time employment, or a combination of part-time work and study. The New Zealand Government has recently proposed similar changes. This proposal links with research that suggests the longer a student stays at school, the better the long-term prospects. An approved pathway into apprenticeships or other forms of training is a necessary option for students who require it before turning 17. They should be encouraged to go into other forms of training because struggling or unwilling students are recognized as more likely to be disruptive in class.

Driving: The age for obtaining a driver licence in New Zealand is young by international comparison. The age in Australia is 17 for most States except Victoria which is 18 and South Australia which is 16. South Africa, Japan, Malaysia, China, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia have a driving age of 18. A person can apply for a Learner Licence in NZ when they turn 15, followed by a Restricted Licence six months later which allows them to solo drive. There are restrictions on the driving experience of passengers permitted to be carried by a Restricted Licence holder. A 15 ½ year old can therefore have full, solo, charge of a vehicle. Whilst accepting that many 15 year olds appear sensible, this is a very young age for an activity carrying such a lot of responsibility. There appears to be merit in the graduated licensing system operating in NZ. Research conducted in the United States reveals that teenagers are more likely to engage in risky behavior when with groups of their peers. The research into brain immaturity suggests that the region of the brain that inhibits risky behavior is not fully formed until age 25.

Criminal liability is another issue with concerns that are age related. It appears from recent media coverage that the age in which young people are committing serious crimes is getting lower. When doing my research I looked at the situation in Australia. Australian statistics revealed the extent to which 8 - 10 year old children are causing problems over there for serious crimes. Police logged 7,724 offences by under 8 - 10 year olds between 1 January 2005 and 30 September 2007. There are people in NZ advocating for a lower age of criminal responsibility for young people, which would enable police to charge them for serious crimes at a younger age. This is a contentious topic.

Alcohol consumption by young people is another issue. As the law currently stands, a person must be 18 before they can buy alcohol. Many younger ones however, reportedly have no difficulty getting hold alcohol. Recent media coverage has highlighted the extent of binge drinking for teens, which is concerning. As well as the dangers to the teens themselves, the costs to the taxpayer from the repercussions of excessive teenage drinking need to be considered. These include accidents: facial injuries alone, caused by young men getting into fights when drunk, are costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year in New Zealand.

Marriage law in NZ allows a person aged 16 or 17 to marry providing they have consent of parents or guardians. Once they turn 18 they do no require this consent.

Air travel: Airlines generally charge a child at an adult rate from age 11 upwards. This appears fairly consistent among airlines checked. It is difficult to know how they assess this age as being ‘adult’. Also, as noted, the age required to supervise another child on an aircraft is 15. (14 for land babysitting.)

To summarize, as it can be seen above, the current situation is complex. When is a child no longer a child? 16 seems quite a good age as a first milestone – driving, sex and leaving school to go into training. A change in the age for this first milestone would affect the age for children's air travel, babysitting and driving: Many parents would love their children to be able to travel on a child's fare up to age 16 and would also appreciate another year before their kids get behind the wheel of a vehicle; some 14 year olds can handle babysitting responsibilities well, while for others their skills would be questionable. If this babysitting age was increased it could cause hardship to some families though. The second milestone of the age of 18 for things like buying alcohol, and voting, as is currently the situation, should remain, recognizing however that some people consider the age for purchasing alcohol should be increased to 20 - but I think given the legal responsibilities that go with this age, it seems difficult to qualify why an 18 year old should not be able to buy alcohol. I would also suggest that 18 appears plenty young enough to marry and 16 seems incredibly young in this era. There are people who say there are too many rules and parents should have more say in what they permit their kids to do. A complex issue!