SEXUAL assaults and related offences committed by school-aged children have almost quadrupled in four years.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that between 2007 and 2011 the number of offences jumped from 430 to 1709 across the nation.Experts believe the greater and easier access children now have to pornographic material via the internet is playing a role in the worrying trend. "These children have no experience with sex and can get a skewed idea," Dr Ian Nisbet, a forensic psychologist with the Department of Juvenile Justice in NSW, said. "The most common age to commit a sexual offence is 14. There is a bi-modal peak in sexual offences - one at 14 and again in the 30s. This is to do with access to vulnerable victims," Dr Nisbet said. For a 14-year-old, an easy-to-access and vulnerable victim may be a relative, friend or schoolmate, he said.
A child who demonstrated a secretive or compulsive behaviour towards sex and ignored warnings from parents to stop inappropriate sexual activities could be a potential offender. He said it was vital for parents to be involved in educating and speaking to children about sex when they felt they were developmentally ready. "Young people will be educated about sex in some way or another. It is important for parents to be involved," Dr Nisbet said. The ABS figures also showed a near 100 per cent jump in school-aged children committing acts intended to cause injury between 2007 and 2011 - from 5621 to 11,085. Theft and drug crimes also all grew significantly among children aged 10 to 17. The number of murders plunged, however, and the use of prohibited weapons more than halved.