Investigators are hot on the heels of the adults behind a video circulating on social media, which features a child, not older than five years old, who is being encouraged to drink and smoke as part of an apparent birthday celebration.
The clip, which drew reactions of outrage and distress from social media users, is now the subject of a probe by the Office of the Children’s Advocate (OCA) in collaboration with the police and other State agencies, Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
“We have made some headway and have, in fact, established contact with an individual who, hopefully, will lead us to the actual person who created the video and also posted it, because we have an interest in looking at the circumstances that surround why the video was done in the first place, what’s happening with this particular child and the negative exposure that we saw demonstrated in that particular clip, because if that’s happening in one clip, then who is to tell what is happening outside in terms of the general context,” Gordon Harrison disclosed yesterday.
She continued: “We expect to be successful in the short term [as a result of efforts to locate the child] and to be treating with the matter in keeping with promoting and preserving the best interest of the child.”
The children’s advocate told the Observer that OCA has information that so far suggests, tentatively, that this child in the video is not in the Corporate Area.
She said the adults behind the video and the life of the child are in conflict with the law.
“Definitely, based on what was portrayed, the child would be said to be in circumstances that put him or exposed him to risk or to inappropriate circumstances when it comes on to age-appropriate behaviour for a child. So smoking, as we know, has health risks, and it is against our law for persons below the age of 18 to be in possession of cigarettes, to be purchasing them or smoking them. So right there, the person who provided this child with this cigarette, or even if the child got it himself and proceeded to smoke it, the adults who had control should not have encouraged it, they should have interrupted that behaviour, so they aided and abetted a minor in smoking,” Gordon Harrison outlined.
“Also, the consumption of alcohol is reserved for persons who are adults, so again, the person who gave the child the drink would be guilty of aiding and betting and in the alternative, if they didn’t give it to him and he went and got it himself, they should not have watched and allowed him to consume it, so we do have aiding and abetting, and behaviour that amounts to breaches of other pieces of legislation,” the children’s advocate added.
She said, too, that the Child Care and Protection Act deals with anyone who has the clear custody or control of a child, who allows that child to be exposed to any thing that could harm the child — whether physically or otherwise — as being guilty of an offence,
“So there are various avenues under different pieces of legislation that could hold the adults with custody, care and control of this child in breach, and certainly there is the broader question as well as to what are the regular systems of protection that surround this particular child, so those issues need to be examined,” she explained.
On the caption that accompanied the video, apparently in reference to the child, “Bad from him young”, the children’s advocate said it is clear the adults involved were in need of other forms of intervention themselves.
“Labelling is something that is not encouraged… children tend, over time, to subliminally imbibe those messages and then they tend to act out in accordance with the label. So it’s never a good thing to label, and when you have adults who are supposed to be persons who know better, persons who are supposed to be nurturing and inculcating positive behaviour in our children, helping them determine what’s right from what’s wrong, using labels like that, [it] shows that those adults are misguided, shows that they themselves don’t understand the significance of labelling, and it shows as well that they have the wrong priorities and those adults need an intervention themselves as well,” she said.
Gordon Harrison further noted that the video has sparked concerns for the care and well-being of other children.
“You wonder, how many others? This one just happened to go viral because it was recorded, but you wonder how many others…are not being recorded and are having this kind of exposure — and therein lies the problem,” she said.