Teen Violence: Who’s Scamming Who?

 Teen Violence in this country didn’t come out of the blue. We didn’t go to bed one night on Primrose Lane and wake up the next morning in a virtual war zone. The current wave of teen violence grew over decades. Some of the richly funded governmental programs are missing the mark. CNN’s Drew Griffin investigates, The Neighborhood Recovery Initiative, (NRI)  $54.5 million programs to cut gang violence in Chicago. The program not only failed to address some of the most violent communities, but it  failed to account for how the city spent all that money.

Perhaps politicians need to reflect on their real intent for establishing these million dollar programs that fail. Do they want community change or do they want the community vote? How vested are politicians in reducing teen violence? I mean, think about it for a minute. If our inner cities weren’t falling apart if gang violence vanished, the unemployment problem solved and the quality of education dramatically improved,  what platform would candidates use for their campaigns? Where would political candidates be without the problems of our inner cities?  The bottom line is the politicians self-serving million dollar programs  can’ t turn teen violence around. We need to have a long-term strategy that addresses causes and risk factors for the youth in the american inner-cities. Our society a lot of risk factors that promote, encourage and tolerate teen violence and few protective factors.  We need to identify two factors before any real change can be made with teen violence in America:

  • What creates risk?
  • What promotes resiliency?

Teen Violence: Top 6 Risk Factors

Poverty

Teen-Violence-Jeffery-Sachs-Quote

Poverty alone is not an adequate explanation for what is going on in most communities. But the fact that poverty is at least part of the cause means that interventions involving economic development must be on the list of strategies that will likely reduce the rates of violent injury in those communities. 

Alcohol

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If you binged watched shows like, “Breaking Bad” and “The Wire” you probably got the idea that people who take the drugs designed by creepy people in hidden labs commit lethal violence. But, the fact is alcohol is the drug linked to more homicides in the US than any other drug. Homicides typically involve people who know one another, an argument, a weapon, and alcohol. Alcohol is known to lower the bar for violent behavior, more so than many other drugs. And alcohol is the most frequently used drug among teenagers. It’s also the most available drug for teens. Alcohol use and abuse among adolescents require the level of attention and investment governmental programs direct to illegal drugs.

Guns

 

A handgun that’s available when an argument or conflict arises significantly increases the chances of a serious injury occurring if the argument becomes physical. Teenager’s easy access to handguns is part of the problem. Also, we need to examine the attitudes that encourage and even promote gun ownership. Kids and guns are a dangerous mix. By the way, the video above was an award-winning public service video on the effects of gun violence on the black youth of Chicago. The tragic endnote to the video trended the Internet in March of this year. 

Chicago Teenager in Video Against Gun Violence Is Shot and Wounded

A 13-year-old Chicago boy who appeared in an award-winning public service video about the effect of gun violence on the city’s black youth was shot in the back and critically wounded, officials said Monday.

Media

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Our culture’s fascination with violence, especially by violence in the media is the fourth risk factor. Children, in particular, boys, learn to use violence from the media. Over the last five decades, researchers have documented the direct connection between the viewing of violence on TV and the aggressive behavior. Young people are particularly susceptible to these exposures, but older children and adolescents are vulnerable as well.  According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry:

  • Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness. Sometimes, watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness.
  • Children who view shows in which violence is very realistic, frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see.
  • Children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence.
  • The impact of TV violence may show immediately in the child’s behavior or may surface years later.
  • Young people can be affected even when their home life shows no tendency toward violence. Read more…

Parenting.com: 10 Worst Video Games For Kids

Teen Violence: Risk and Protective Factors

It’s important to keep in mind that risk factors can increase a kid’s chances for violent behavior, while protective factors can reduce the risk. The more risks your child is exposed to, the more likely he or she will demonstrate aggressive and violent behavior. Some risks are more powerful than others at certain ages of your child’s development. For example, peer-pressure during the teenage years is a risk factor. While, a strong parent-child bond, can have a greater impact on reducing risks during your child’s early years. An important goal of prevention is to change the balance between risk and protective factors so that protective factors outweigh risk factors.

Coming up at Haartfelt

In my next two posts I’ll cover the fifth and sixth risk factors for teen violence:

  • Witnessing and Experiencing Violence
  • Teenage Vulnerability

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