It is becoming a common theme as older generations look around and ask the vital question, “What is wrong with kids today?” Violence has become a way of life and expression for so many modern youth that it is getting difficult to look past the problem and find a solution.
Gang violence is of course the number one issue that comes to mind when tackling the topic of teenage violence. Gangs are the ultimate in family dysfunction. A child of eight or nine will join a gang because they are searching for a place to belong and feel safe and wanted. A gang accepts this young member and pampers him and makes him feel special. Now he is part of the family, and his “brothers” have shown him loyalty and respect. He is indebted to repay that loyalty.
Consider what type of manipulation must take place for a nine or ten year old child to be convinced to take a life. No child is interested in killing. There must be a strong motivator and warped sense of responsibility in order to convince that child that this is the right thing to do.
Programs that provide after school care and supervision are absolute God sends to some communities, although there aren’t nearly enough active programs at this time. These programs literally fill the gang shoes that children are looking for when they jump into a gang. They have someone to care about how their day went and how they are handling their issues and if their parents are doing right by them. These programs offer them an educated chance out there in a very violent corner of the world.
These children are still far from untouched by gang violence. Caught in the crossfire hundreds of kids trying to stay out of gang related violence are harmed each year, many of them killed.
Teen violence reaches far beyond the streets of Los Angeles and Chicago. Violence is cropping up in what many consider to be the most unlikely places. Violence has reached every community and every school across the nation. Whether you are talking about school revenge shootings or upper class silent violence, it is lurking everywhere.
School shootings never cease to shock us and rip our core to the bone. There is something so heinous in this violence that we simply can’t accept that somewhere someone isn’t to blame. We look to the schools and the parents in an attempt to understand how these actions could have happened and why the warning signs were missed. Children as young as ten have been responsible for school related death.
Looking a little deeper, these are issues that hit the front page of the paper. The violence that slips under the cracks is the daily violence that nobody ever hears about. Upper class communities are not immune. It is estimated that perhaps as high as 15% of all school aged teenagers have been the victim of violence in these upper class communities. Date rape, intimidation tactics, and even extortion are hitting the upper class communities at an alarming rate.
Personal responsibility, reasonable anger expression, and value of human life and safety are the basic key issues that are lacking in the individuals who are out there harming other individuals. We live in a throw away society. If something is old, worn out, useless, or something better comes along, we simply throw one thing away and replace it with another. We, as a society, have lost tough with basic core values.
These values don’t need to be conservative, but it is helpful to occasionally wander out into undeveloped territory and reconnect with the very essential nature of human life. Our rapidly growing on demand society is creating a sense of “I want it now and if I don’t like it when I get I will throw it away and get something better and I will do so right now.” This attitude is certainly at least partially responsible for the rise of teen violence.
If it is acceptable for people to feel this way about things, how are children supposed to make the distinction about people unless they are taught to do so? And somehow this step is getting overlooked. The desire for success and economic security is certainly not a bad thing. The idea that it is acceptable to walk all over people in order to get what you want is not something we should be passing down to our children. Yet they are certainly learning it from somewhere.
Whether it is an after school program or mentoring programs or parents who are willing to stop assuming that their child simply would never go beyond the boundaries and into a world of violence, adults need to be more involved. They need to stop assuming that social classes of kids are less prone to violence and that children who flock to violence are simply “bad kids.” Adults are responsible for the outcome of today’s children. If we are looking for someone to blame we are responsible on some level.