Recently, violence in the schools has been a great concern in our society as a whole. The attention is justified by the abundance of media coverage on a number of recent school shootings. With all these news clips and sound bites swirling around our heads, one might conclude that our children are more violent than previous generations. It might seem in fact, that something has made children more violent today than their parents were. With innocent victims dying everyday, researchers and psychologists work franticly to understand this seemingly new dark behavioural trend in hopes that solutions can be implemented. What is making children and teenagers so violent?
Some say the television is to blame, as well as the other forms of media responsible for representing and displaying images of a violent nature. The idea is that violent behaviour is learned. Many people suggest that limiting the violent graphic content found on television might lead toward a less violent society. The assumption is that without a catalyst (violent programming), violent behaviour will be less prevelant. I can see how one might think this way; 1. chilren appear to behave more violently than their parents did as children. 2. Today’s television has more violent shows, both in abundance and degree. There appears to be a simple causation there. It may be just a corelation. American television networks operate on the supply and demand curve just like any other industry. There has to exist a demand for violent programming first. The demand for violent programming leads to the broadcasting of such programs, but do violent shows lead to violent behaviour? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
Some see the violence in the schools as a response to negative social forces. The classic alienation of adolescents who possess certain arbitrarily negative characteristics might lead to internalized anger of the individual. This anger may build up over time and eventually be vented through violent behaviour. One doesn’t need to be a social scientist to make the observation that we as a society have become more critical in recent times. People are more fashion conscious, more materialistic, and more self-conscious over all. This may be because no one wants to be that alienated person. We have become more critical of others as well. In the past this social-conformity ‘machine’ has brought unity to our culture with equal pride in individuality. Today’s children exhibit a drastically different behavioural trend. Today there is little courage or pride of the individual. Extreme fear of scrutiny has forced children into tight cliques. Being part of a group is more important than being a successful individual. While this concept is not a new one, the degree to which it is true today is without precedence. When an individual cannot meet the standards of ‘preferred groups’ they may be scrutinized by the clique and/or become self-critical. How they cope with this situation can determine their potential to be violent in a social environment like a public school.
Many different factors have been analyzed in an attempt to stop the violent behaviour. Is the media to blame? Is the in-crowd to blame? Are parents to blame? Do we need to bring back the switch? Discipline is a greatly under addressed issue that needs to be considered. Many people argue that violence begets violence, and that physically punishing a child is not the answer.
However, children must learn that some things are off limits, and that consequences must be faced if rules are broken. Parents today are too busy to effectively discipline their children. Schools can’t do it; they barely have adequate resources to teach fundamental academics. How can they possibly condition a child? Regardless of the method of execution, parents must discipline their children from the beginning. Many parents lack the skills to do so. This is where the media can redeem itself. If television contributed to the problem, then why not use it as a tool to teach struggling parents and children effective ways to cope with life. Television could also encourage true individual thinking, not crowds of mindless body pierced ‘Lemmings’. People will watch and listen if they respect the presentation. It can’t be cheesy.