Thirty-two percent of kids, according to a 2011 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, admit to having taken part in a physical fight. Whether you have concerns about bullying, verbal insults, physical aggression or the use of guns, teen violence is something no one should tolerate.
Instead of waiting for teens to get violent, the CDC advocates for the use of prevention programs to stop aggressive behaviors before they start. Prevention programs -- whether they are at school, in the community, at church or any other place the teens frequent -- aim to reduce violence by removing risks associated with aggression and promoting more positive factors. Youth violence prevention programs can target the teens themselves, giving them coping strategies to manage their anger or making them more aware of the consequences of violent acts, or might focus on parents and families. Adult-oriented programs often strive to make parents aware of youth violence, what to look for, how to stop it and how to talk to a teen about the issues surrounding violence.
If you think that teen-teen violence only means gang-related shootings or physical altercations, think again. With the growing use of the Internet, cyberbullying is a major problem for many teens. According to the anti-violence website DoSomething.org, one in every four kids reports being bullied online at least one time. Cyberbullying includes spreading vicious rumors or lies, posting private pictures or making threats online or via text messaging. Help your teen to stop the violence associated with cyberbullying by discussing how it affects him and other kids. Tell him that it's never acceptable to pass along or re-post violent bullying messages. If he sees cyberbullying occurring anywhere online, let him know that he needs to report it to an adult such as you or a trusted teacher.
While large-scale prevention programs are certainly a key part of reducing the incidences of teen violence, parents can play an important role, too. Even without enrolling in a parenting or prevention type of class, parents can use simple techniques at home to help their teens to avoid aggression and better understand what to do when violence erupts. The pediatric experts at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation suggest that parents talk to their teens openly about violence and issues that trouble them. Let your teen know that anger is a completely normal feeling that everyone has occasionally, but expressing it in a violent way is never OK. Additionally, as the parent, you can provide alternative activities for your child to keep her away from potentially violent circumstances. This could mean signing your teen up for an after-school tutoring program.
Solutions to teen violence aren't always as cut and dry as lecturing, discussing or attending a more traditional type of prevention program. Teens can benefit from using the arts, including painting or music, as a way to counteract the effects of violent acts. For example, the National Museum of Mexican Art and the Community Art Sustaining Academics after-school program helps at-risk kids to express how violence affects them in an artistic way. Not only can an arts program such as this help teens to express their fears about violence, it also keeps them engaged in non-aggressive activities and gets the anti-violence message out into the community.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevetion: Youth Violence
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevetion: Youth Violence: Prevetion Strategies
- DoSomething.org: 11 Facts About Cyber Bullying
- National Crime Prevention Council: Cyberbullying
- Palo Alto Medical Foundation: Teens and Violence Prevention
- Chicago Journal: Chicago Teens Deal With Effects of Violence Through Art
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images