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Violence Among Youths

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Recently, an increasing number of North American youth are committing violent crimes. Although the consequences of these violent crimes are easily apparent, the causes behind them are often abstract and obscure, making it difficult to pin blame on a single source. Moreover, this deviant behaviour among young people can be attributed to a combination of several generalized factors. Leading contributing factors of youth violence include the media, the influence of family life, widespread abuse of drugs and alcohol, the ease of access to weapons and a lack of strong punishment that exists for juvenile offenders. If this rise in aggressive acts is to be stemmed, the causes youth violence must be determined and analyzed to determine which ones, if any can be affected by change.

First, the most obvious and publicized cause explaining youth violence is the inescapable and highly influential exposure of youths to violence in the media, especially violence on television. Young people, most notably children are susceptible to learning violent ideals through their high level of exposure to North American television programming. Parents have come to rely on the use of television as a babysitting service and therefore have increased the influence of television on the fragile, easily manipulated minds of their children. On average, a typical Canadian child will watch about 22 hours of television per week (Childley 38). Over their adolescent lives, this adds up to more time spent watching television than time spent at school, playing sports or communicating with parents and friends (Childey 39).

It is not the amount of television viewed that has created this problem, but rather it is the content of North American television that has spiraled out of control and that has warped the minds of countless children. The correlation between aggressive behavior and television viewing is accounted for by the violent content of modern television shows. Estimates have indicated that by the time a child reaches the age of twelve, s/he will have witnessed as many as 12, 000 violent deaths on television, and that this can lead to "heightened aggression in the short term" (Childley 38). We live in an era where Hollywood is applauded for its creativity and originality when it comes to new ways to murder characters. Consequently, it is no wonder that youth violence is up 140% in Canada since 1986, as many young people will absorb this message of aggression and project it upon others (Bale C9). The recent shooting of a six year-old girl in Flint, Michigan supports this claim that North American children are indeed affected by the violence they watch on television. The Toronto Star states that the five year-old boy who did the shooting admittedly enjoyed watching "violent movies and TV shows" (14). In addition to mimicking hostile behaviour they view on television, the sheer number of violent acts seen by young people is responsible for desensitizing them to violence (Landau 38). Consequently, juveniles are at a high predisposition to committing violent acts and most feel no hesitation or remorse when they do so because television has showed them violence to be a way of life.

Although the media, namely in the form of television, has an impact on young people exhibiting violent behavior, the home environment of these young people must also be considered a primary factor in promoting hostility. This influence takes into account a child's acquisition of values learned from his/her parents, the behavior of his/her parents, and abuse of a child by a parent. These are the three prominent factors that determine the cognitive growth of children and hence they dictate their social interaction and behavior (Lerner and Spanier 50).

The foremost explanation of violent conduct in youths that can be traced back to family life lies in the ideals that are projected upon children by their parents. This theory is confirmed by Landau when she writes, "The environment in which a boy grows to manhood will naturally exert a strong influence in shaping his values" (65). Parents are usually legally responsible for their children until they reach the age of 18. A parent's legal accountability for a child implies much more than this law states. Specifically, in the context of this subject, a parent is responsible for teaching their child right from wrong in both moral and legal senses (Lerner and Spanier 50). For all intents and purposes, this implicit onus on parents ensures that they will instruct their children not to commit illegal offenses, including violent ones, which are detrimental to society. In the absence of this parental instruction, be it due to neglect, or for other reasons such as single parenthood, children tend to become involved in delinquent acts, which can and often involve violence. This failure to instill proper values upon a child recently became headline news when a six year-old boy from Michigan fatally shot a young girl during class. Debbie Howlett reported that that this boy, who suffered from neglect and who was being raised by a single mother, shot the girl in anger over a quarrel that had occurred the previous day (A3). This incidence of violence is indicative of a parental failure to show the child proper values, and consequently the child knew no better than resort to violence to settle his emotions. In North America, stories of misguided children behaving violently such as this one are not at all uncommon, and they have been occurring unexpectedly. Both Canada and the United States are experiencing a recent epidemic of these violent incidents in places like Taber, Alberta in Canada and Littleton, Colorado in the U.S., proving that youth violence is not localized to any one region or country.

Another cause of youth violence for which parents are accountable is the impression they create with their own respective behavior. While growing up a child will follow the example set by his/her parents, as interaction with parents is normally the child's first social experience and consequently the child will take on part of his parents' personalities (Wickes 17-19). This fact provides another potentially violent influence on a child. According to Wickes, it can be said that if a parent tends to display aggressive behavior and is easily disposed to violence, the child will undoubtedly learn that this reaction to others in society is the norm. As a result the child will reproduce this pattern of violence and aggression on his own when stimulated to do so. Again, referring to the incident in Flint, Michigan mentioned before, the shooting was an example of this inheritance of violent tendencies as the child's father was serving time in prison for armed robbery ("Out of Control" 14). Assuming a connection between the father's prison sentence and the boy's violent

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