By Stephanie L. Mann
Americans read about youth violence every day! 50 teenagers ransack Walmart in Georgia. 13 year-old rapes 7 year-old on school bus in Port Townsend, Washington. Laughing teens beat up a 17 year-old boy, knocking out his teeth. Rival basketball students attack each other in the stands.
Who is to blame for youth violence? Parents? Police? Politicians? Social media? TV? Movies? No community support? Based on my experience as a crime and violence prevention specialist, all of the above have contributed to the “perfect storm” for youth violence.
- Social media can isolate youth so they don’t develop good communication skills.
- TV and movies glorify sex and violence.
- Politicians allocate money to solve problems, which can create dependency.
- Police have assumed too much responsibility for neighborhood safety, which makes citizens feel powerless.
- Parents and neighbors no longer take responsibility for kids on the block.
- The breakdown of the family can prevent children from getting the attention and love they need to grow strong and resilient.
Without guidance from responsible adults, youth become bullies or easy victims. They can grow up angry without knowing how to solve problems, listen to others and work out differences. They blame others for problems and do not take responsibility for their behavior.
Adults are teachers and demonstrate acceptable behavior at home and in their neighborhoods. Emotionally weak adults don’t teach children how to discover their own identity. Youth without internal and external boundaries become violent and easily manipulated into drugs, child sex trafficking, gangs, hate groups or even ISIS.
Are we going to be observers of youth violence or discuss and take action on what must change to empower youth? Here are two solutions that work for any family!
- Youth violence starts at a young age and must be addressed years before someone calls the police. Youth need neighborhood support. That means neighbors must know and support each other. When young children misbehave, neighbors agree to verbally correct behavior and report bad behavior to parents. Parents accept help from family, friends and neighbors and discipline children. Parents need to accept help from other adults to help their children become responsible. (External control)
- Parents must give children a solid foundation so they can grow stronger and resilient when times are difficult. A loving family teaches children to value themselves and their bodies. With discipline and support at home children succeed. Many families, including single moms and dads, belong to Christian or Jewish communities that give children additional love and support. The religious community offers emotional tools to protect the mind, body and spirit. With a solid foundation of love and support, children develop the inner power to reach their potential. (Inner control)
No more blame and excuses for youth violence. Adults must support families, especially children. If we see kids mistreating and abusing each other, say something and talk to parents. We must stop tolerating bad behavior. If ignored, bad behavior gets worse.
Work with parents and neighbors to get the support needed to stop neighborhood problems from escalating. When neighbors work together, share information and speak up, they discover they can keep families and children safe and healthy.
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Frederick Douglass