Donald Tsang

Spying is not the answer to drugs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 November, 2009, 12:00am

Youth drug use is undeniably a growing problem. Police statistics and surveys show this is a trend. But spying on children and randomly testing them at school are not solutions. It will probably destroy trust and relationships.

Drugs are easily available and inexpensive. Curiosity and peer pressure turn children to them. The best way to combat this problem is education and better policing, not video cameras and in-school checks.

Our leaders and some parents seem to think otherwise. Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's order of random tests in Tai Po secondary schools claims to be a solution. But there is little to suggest such schemes have worked elsewhere. Politics, more than eradicating drugs, is most likely Tsang's motive. Amid rising discontent with his government and governing style, he needs successes. But the Tai Po testing, which starts next month, will likely have little real effect. It may turn up a handful of users, but it will not stop the wider problem.

There may be times when we need to spy on children - if, say, they have a life-threatening problem. But it could damage relations with children forever. There are other steps that should first be considered.

Being watchful for signs of unusual behaviour is crucial. But the simplest and most useful method is communication. With time and effort, we can build open, transparent discussion and, critically, trust.

Problems between parents and children cannot be outsourced. Doing so only drives a wedge between students and their parents and teachers. It's better for authorities to provide more funding for education programmes and policing. Most of all, though, parents have to find the time to build sound relationships with children.