Youth Violence Prevention
More than 630,000 children and young adults under the age of 24 were admitted to emergency rooms across the United States with injuries sustained from violent attacks. The toll that this violence takes can be felt by families, students and entire communities. Homicide has become the third leading cause of death for youths, exhibiting the importance of creating and enacting youth violence prevention programs to address this growing problem. Everybody can play a part in the prevention of violence, from parents and teachers to students and members of the community who notice something is not right.
Causes of Youth Violence
Many of the violent crimes committed by and against children or teens have some root in the home. Children with violent tendencies may be dealing with and channeling anger and resentment over a divorce, alcoholism in the family, child abuse or some other dysfunction within the family. It is found that victims of abuse and bullying are more likely to harm or bully others, which is why the problem needs to be addressed at home.
In other cases, bullied children may resort to violence if they feel they are unable to obtain the help or protection that they need to feel safe or accepted. Such children can be primed for recruitment by gangs— which promise protection and purpose in exchange for loyalty. The desire to be accepted and to belong leads thousands of children down this violent path, where disputes between rival gangs can become deadly.
How to Prevent Youth Violence
If you pay close attention, the warning signs will surface long before a child ever becomes violent. Should you notice a child exhibiting these symptoms, prepare an intervention in a non-confrontational and supportive manner and be prepared to report any concerns to the proper authorities.
- Withdrawing from activities that the child used to enjoy. This could be due to peer pressure, bullying or feelings of depression or anxiety.
- The child distances him or herself from his or her friends and acquires new ones that have a different set of values.
- The child begins to abuse drugs or alcohol. This abuse becomes frequent and is linked to a new social group.
- Rebelling against authority. Examples include ignoring curfews, refusing to tell parents where the child is or what he or she is doing and getting into altercations with teachers or other school staff.
- Slipping grades, which can be a sign of depression, anxiety and victimization.
- The child appears with bruises, cuts or other injuries and is unable to offer a reasonable explanation.
- Verbal altercations with others and bullying, such as name calling, threatening others or angry outbursts.
- Violent mood swings that indicate a sudden and dramatic shift in the child’s behavior.
- Discovering that the child is engaging in illegal activities, such as the purchase or sale of drugs, theft and other crimes.
If you notice that a child is exhibiting these symptoms, take the issue to an authority figure at the child’s school. Should you notice signs that a child is the victim of violence, so not hesitate to file a report with the police.
How to Educate Your Child on Youth Violence Prevention
It is important that you sit down with your child and let him or her know your expectations. This includes letting him or her know how to react if he or she is being bullied or harassed, how to report being assaulted and how or when to intervene if another child is the victim of a crime. While educating your child, also reinforce the fact that you will always support and protect him or her when needed and that you will not condemn or judge him or her for being truthful.
For more strategies on how to prevent youth violence, you can visit the following websites.