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NZ Herald
July 19 2006

Child nudity ban at pools
Readers' Views


A Christchurch pool has banned parents from changing their children in public, citing offence taken by some swimmers and concern about paedophiles photographing naked children. We asked readers what was an unacceptable age for children to be changed in public. Here are some of the responses:


Why not ban all men from public pools? And ban them from living within a 10km radius of primary schools.

Isn't this the hidden agenda for all these silly rules, that men are all evil and should be eliminated from the face of this world?

- Arnel de Guzman.

I think a good age to stop poolside changing would be around 8. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration, such as if a parent is watching other family members and it is the only way to do both things at the same time.

- Heather.

I feel so sad for our society that this mother gets treated so badly, when her children are probably safer getting changed at the pool-side than alone in the changing rooms. Our son is 7 and he is getting to the stage where he is a little self-conscious about getting changed in public.

But a bit of common sense is needed here. Older children just need a towel. That mother needed support, not judgment. She should be congratulated on having the kids involved in a healthy activity and not in front of the TV.

We need to get real.

- Arda van Kuyk.

We go to QEII in Christchurch, where they have family change rooms that are often taken by middle-aged, overly modest women, so I frequently have to take my 3 1/2-year-old and 18-month-old girls to the men's changing rooms.

As for changing at the poolside, I see it a lot at QEII. It just seems to be laziness on part of the latte-sipping parents who don't want to take their kids to the change rooms. The idiots at QEII don't like my wife breast-feeding at poolside but they let women wear white T-shirts in the pool. This is not PC stuff, just typical Kiwis wanting to do their own thing.

- Arni.

Are these women all idiots? I have children and I would never think of changing them in public with all the perverts and sickos around these days.

Yes, it is inconvenient to have to go into a change area but would this woman prefer some paedophile was looking at her child?

It is not 1950 any more. The statistics on child molestation, paedophilia and child pornography are so high these days, why would anybody risk it? Stop whinging and think about it for a minute.

- Stacey.

This is PC gone mad. Some small-fry manager is being a Hitler for no good reason. The maximum age for kids to get changed at the poolside should be about 6 or 7.

- Ron.

I live in Germany. As often as not adults change by the pools in the open and women are comfortable bathing topless. The kids tend to not wear bathing costumes. Most, if not all, swimming places have nudist sections.

New Zealand needs to get a bit more liberal. If we weren't so caught up with not showing too much nudity then possibly there would not be so much interest in the nudity itself.

- Matt Herriott.

I am just grateful that pool manager Ann Bergman does not have responsibility for our public conveniences.

- Bella McMahon.

Naked babies. What next? Ban all naked baby photos as well, I say. My mother showed me one taken of me sitting naked in the bath at 9 months. The shame! I think the rule should be no children in public places.

That way those poor paedophiles and other sensitive adults will not be tempted and required to exercise any restraint. Maybe we should ban children from now on to avoid any opportunity for people to be offended. The possibilities are endless.

What really offends me is seeing young children inadequately dressed for cold weather.

- Christine.

I am a father of four. Their safety is my absolute priority. Changing the younger ones in public while keeping an eye on the older ones is the safest option when family changing rooms are not available.

They can give me as many notices as they like. I will not put my children at risk by following this ill-informed policy.

- Steve Aschebrock.

I understand that this woman may have had issues with too many children to attend to with getting them changed, but wouldn't you say that their safety is more important?

Okay, we don't want to believe there are paedophiles out there, but the truth is that they are everywhere. I wouldn't want my child at risk of being watched by someone like that if I could simply get up and go to the changing room.

This mother could have taken all her children into the ladies' changing room and attended to them all. I realise there are young women in there who may not have wanted male company, but isn't this an issue that should be looked at by the pool owners? She could have sent her boys into a toilet area while she changed the younger one.

Either way there were better ways to look after her children than expose them to potential paedophiles. I believe there was no overreaction by the pool staff and this mother should take a reality check.

- Renee.

Who makes the rules at these aquatic centres? Maybe it is management types who have never had kids to change at the poolside. Next they will make rules that will stop people changing their kids in the changing rooms just in case someone gets offended.

- Ben.

Children naturally reach a stage where they become self-conscious about their bodies. Schools and parents, hopefully, bring about and encourage this awareness of privacy as the child ages. Children who fail to develop this self-awareness by the age of 7 should be gently encouraged to change in private.

- Cicelia.

Children generally set the standard of when it's unacceptable to change in public. My 5-year-old daughter is already preferring privacy. And if Jerry Collins can pee on the rugby field, a child should be able to change by the poolside.

Equally, if this is a paedophilia issue, shouldn't we be concerned with reducing their rights, not ours?

- Philip.

The age is determined by the child or the parent. It's that growing stage in a parent and child's life. The child gets to an age where he or she feels uncomfortable being changed in public and grabs a towel to cover up and the parent knows.

Who are the ashamed and embarrassed ones? Are they the ones with no children or with children but who lack the loving intimate parent-child parental skills?

- Colin.

So where is it going to stop? Kids being changed on the beach, mothers breast-feeding in a cafe? Are we about to see a proliferation of modesty police?

- Bruce Holm.

I think the Kaiapoi pool took a ridiculous stance over the mother changing her 16- month-old child at the poolside. How can there be offence in a baby's nudity?

The pool's attitude is the offensive thing here. It is probably reasonable to expect children of 7 or 8 to change in the changing rooms but even then, if parents and child were happy to do so in public I cannot see what there is to be offended about.

- Maureen Sheldon.

I am gobsmacked to read that the PC nonsense brigade has invaded swimming pools now. The pool manager needs to take a close look at the policy and pull her head out.

My own children changed by the swimming pool until they were about 4. Children seem to naturally tell you when they are past the age for such things. Most are happy to follow mum or dad into the changing rooms to see what it is all about when they are ready.

Does the pool concerned now provide extra qualified lifeguards to watch the older children who are unattended while a mother heads into a changing room with a toddler.

What about the mothers who have their sons or fathers with their daughters? Are they to take the child into their own changing shed, with adults who are naked, who are not related to them? Does not a closed-off area pose more threat from all these villains in Christchurch than the open public area.

Paedophiles are not found lurking behind every bush and to use this as an excuse is small-minded. Let's get New Zealand back from the idiots.

- Paul.

While we're at it, we should ban bikinis and all sorts of revealing clothing - they are strong magnets for the eyes of unsavoury people.

- John.

Sorry, but this made international news and I thought it was a joke, until I read the article. This is something I'd expect to find here in the US, but not in a country like New Zealand where people seem (at least they used to) more relaxed to simple nudity.

Children changing by the pool is something you see in just about every country, and when they are young there is no problem with it. This mother should not have been given a hard time. The policy is stupid.

- David Meyer.

In an ideal world everyone ought to skinny-dip, but perhaps the obesity epidemic needs to be considered. How old is too old? Say, 21 for females, 18 for males.

- George D. Henderson.

It would depend on the facility's locker room rules. My local YMCA has a posted rule that says "Children aged 5 and over must use the locker room of their same gender."

So in this case I would suggest that 5 would be the unacceptable age. Having a 4- year-old would allow the child to become undressed in either the men's or the women's locker room. So, if either sex could see them there, either sex can also deal with a naked kid by the pool.

- Kevin.

Common sense must prevail. Under present pool layout, infants up to 5 years who are with their parent or guardian should be allowed to change at the poolside. My experience is that then, the school child will want to go to their changing rooms.

An alternative is a glass room adjacent to the pool where children can be changed and the parent can still see their other children in the pool.

- Peter McAulay.

Innocent children should not be the subject of adult hang-ups. We think a reasonable age for this rule at pools should be about 6 to 7 years.

- Anna Thompson.

I think 7 years and under, if the child isn't modest, is a reasonable cut-off age for public changing. And if a woman has four children the pool attendants aren't going to be able to supervise them while she leaves the pool to change an infant.

On the other hand, try getting a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old out of the pool and into a family changing room just because you have to change the baby. I don't think so.

- Christine.

If I had been the parent approached by the staff at the pool in Kaiapoi, I think I would have taken my own clothes off and then told them that now they could tell me to leave.

What age child nudity? The real question should be what age adult nudity. Last time I checked, we pretty much looked the same.

If paedophiles do lurk in swimming pools taking photos, they are not really that intelligent and neither are the staff. All a grubby paedophile would have to do is wait for summer, sit at a beach with a telephoto lens and click away like mad.

With that in mind, I would like to suggest a ban on cameras with telephoto lens at beaches during the summer.

- Shane Mason.

I cannot believe a child-changing rule would apply to a 16-month-old baby. Have the people who formulated this rule never tried to care for a number of young children in this situation?

What is safer? Sending a 5-year-old to a changing room by themselves while caring for the others? Anybody who has been in this situation avoids having one child standing shivering while dressing the other.

I would say a minimum age of 5 for changing at the poolside. Even at that age it would concern me if the changing rooms did not allow for family rooms and the child had to go into the male dressing rooms by himself.

- Pam Hollis.

I agree with the pool rules to ban child nudity. The woman who is surprised to be advised by an attendant not to change her children by the pool cannot be 100 per cent certain her children weren't recorded and pictures published on paedophile sites. Naivety is not an excuse not to protect our children's innocence in every way possible.

- Annette Ashley.

Anyone of any age should be allowed to change by the poolside.

- Erling.

There are no changing rooms at the beach and we all seem to cope.

At the pool I think it's up to the mother to judge the individual circumstances. It's more appropriate to have pool staff on the look-out for adults acting strangely than to put some kind of a ban on children getting changed.

It's the same kind of issue as people being offended by breast-feeding.

- Karen Hunter.

I think up to the age of 4 or 5 is okay as long as the child is taught proper behaviour and is not running all over the place. If this woman in Christchurch had to change her baby by the pool because the change room was full then maybe the facility needs to look at making more space.

- Sara.

When my grandson was 3 months old my daughter and I took him to a pool in Blackburn in Britain for a special tots and parents session. I had a waterproof camera and was taking pictures of him (clothed) in a part of the pool where there were no other people present.

I was threatened with eviction if I didn't hand over my dangerous weapon. I thought then how sad it was that society is so threatened by what are a very few perverts in our presence.

Lately I visited New Zealand and Australia. In Cairns there is a promenade walk with fountains and pools designed for children to have fun and frolic in the sun and be kids.

I commented to my daughter on the number of kids with no clothes on. Shock, amazement and no lurking paedophiles.

After that we were in Andorra. My grandson returned his life vest to the guard and said in heavily accented Spanish "gracias".

The guard was delighted and spontaneously leant down and cradled my grandson's head in his hands and planted an appreciative kiss on his head. My grandson giggled.

And then we return to the UK and we read of a vicar with an exemplary record being asked to resign for showing the exact level of spontaneous affection to a 10-year-old.

- Kay.

I am totally with Amanda Crozier on this one. I don't think it's necessary to get officious about deciding what age is appropriate for children to stop changing in public.

In my experience kids will reach a level of self-consciousness on their own. I've known 5-year-olds who don't want to get changed in the open, and kids closer to 10 who are still fine with it.

- Carol Stewart.

I think it's fine to change by the pool. When my kids were younger my daughter wouldn't go into the men's with me to get changed because she said it was for men and boys.

- Glenn Scott.

I think the appropriate age is one where both parent and child feel comfortable with the situation. I'm concerned that the right of the parents to raise their kids in a fair and decent manner is being put under threat by a bunch of paranoid idiots.

The risk that a child will be harmed by changing in public, under adult supervision, is extremely low.

Of far more concern is the need to encourage parents to raise their children in such a manner that they grow up to be capable, responsible and self- disciplined adults.

- John.

There are far more risks to a young unaccompanied boy of any age in a male changing room or toilet than beside a pool. A mother cannot attend to her son in a male changing room as it is male only, yet she cannot change her son in a female changing room after a certain age either, as it compromises some women's privacy.

I think that a child under 7 should be able to change beside a pool.

I would ask this pool owner if they can assure parents there is not a paedophile lurking within their changing rooms. The mother cannot enter that room to access the safety of that environment. The pool owner cannot give this assurance.

How do you establish if the person in the changing room is a paedophile? The owner's rule is flawed and dangerous.

Unless the owner wishes to employ early childhood teachers to oversee the safety of changing rooms, then the owner is asking parents to put their children in unsupervised and unsafe environment.

- Anita Brown.

As long as it's done fairly discreetly, I can't see why children can't be changed in public up to the age of 8 or so. I've always changed my children poolside if I needed to.

I would imagine it would be obvious if someone weird was hanging around watching or photographing naked children and that's who the pool attendants should be concentrating on, not the mothers and their children.

- Vicki.

When I was growing up in the 1950s we all became rather self-conscious around the age of 7 or 8. Kids today probably prefer more privacy a bit earlier, but let that happen naturally. If we regulate anyone it should be those sad people who find the age of innocence offensive.

- Carol.

Let those who mind seeing children without clothes swim in the evenings, when there are no children at the pools.

Get tough on those who use the pool unwashed and with their underwear on - that is a real health and safety issue.

- Thomas.

I am a citizen of the United States, so I'm pretty used to silly rules designed by the prudish who overreact to "protect the children".

I'm pretty used to people jumping at nudity as a great evil that must be stamped out. Heck, I live in what may be the most prudish "modern" country in the world.

Or so I thought. After reading this article, I have come to the conclusion that I could be doing much worse. Instead of living in Tennessee (one of the more prudish parts of the US) I could be living in New Zealand.

- David.