Consider impact of adult decisions on children

Parents are rightly concerned that police questioning and being part of a police investigation can have a traumatic effect on children.

The police are also rightly justified to approach and question any child in an investigation of a crime, as long as it is done with sensitivity and caution.

Schools rightly say that children's interest and well-being always come first, but they have no right to obstruct police's investigations ("Schools have to look after safety of students, public" and "MPs ask about support from school for students"; both published yesterday).

All this begs the question of whether we share a common understanding to place the best interests of children first, when making decisions that may affect them.

Children may not fully know how to make decisions with consequences that are too much for them to handle. Teenager Benjamin Lim likely didn't know that he could probably have got off with no more than a warning for his alleged act ("Teen's death: This is a very sad case"; yesterday).

As adults, when we make decisions, we should think about how our decisions will affect children.

The considerations are different and varied for each individual. This poses much difficulty in handling issues pertaining to youngsters.

It requires adults with the practical wisdom to exercise discretion appropriately on a case-by-case basis and engage parents to help their children make better decisions, face consequences and learn from mistakes.

Even as we look into improving the protocol in police investigations and how schools handle such matters ("Police review to consider three points"; yesterday), adults have to recognise that they carry a responsibility to do whatever they can to make sure that children's rights are respected, protected and fulfilled at all times, even if they are suspected or even guilty of a crime.

Indeed, this is a very sad case. Let us make sure there will never be another one.

William Tan Whee Kiem

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 03, 2016, with the headline 'Consider impact of adult decisions on children'. Print Edition | Subscribe