Youth Violence in the United States
Youth violence is one of the most widespread epidemics that the United States faces. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), violence is a leading cause of death for young people, and it results in over 500,000 children being medically treated each year. Youth violence is defined as violence either against or committed by a child or adolescent. Homicides are responsible for an average of 12 deaths each day across the country and are the 3rd leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10-24. Moreover, youth violence is estimated to cost society over $18 billion annually in medical costs and lost work income alone. This does not count costs associated with criminal justice, property damage, or the community cost to address the young victims, perpetrators, or their families’ needs.
Promoting Awareness of Violence Among Children and Teenagers
As a parent, teacher, or administrator, it is important to know that the best way to prevent youth violence is to stop it before it starts. Youth violence is often first noticed at the toddler ages. While most children grow out of it and learn to cope with their problems using alternative means, some children continue to demonstrate aggressive behavior as they get older. Many times, this behavior is due to family problems or issues with peers. Youth violence can take many forms – bullying, harassment, fighting, dating violence, domestic child abuse, gun violence and self harm are just a few areas that encapsulate this country’s youth violence.
Strategies to Prevent Youth Violence
Managing youth violence generally starts at the child’s home. However, schools and community organizations can also take steps to stop the issue. Below are a few ways parents can work with their kids to prevent them from acting in a violent manner.
- Promote a healthy environment for your family. Families that lack structure, supervision, caring relationships, open communication, and stability provide an environment for aggression and stress for youth.
- Prioritize education early in life. It is recommended that kids start school as soon as they are eligible. Quality early education environments promote social skills, cognitive development, strengthen connections to school, and can reduce problems at home.
- Take active roles in your children’s schools. Talk to teachers and staff about how your child interacts with peers, fellow students, and school staff. By volunteering for school-related trips, activities and organizations, you can see firsthand how your child interacts with others.
- Actively talk with your children and listen to their concerns – not only when conflict arises, but daily. Set clear expectations and communicate clearly the issues with violence. Provide positive feedback when your child restrains from using violence in a difficult situation.
- Know your children’s friends and peer group. Many times, violent behavior will be associated with the crowd in which the child is associated.
- Keep children involved in extracurricular activities such as sports, theater, art, music, or other community organizations that cater to youth.
Overall, youth violence is preventable if parents, family members, teachers, educators, administrators, and community stakeholders work together and with our children to provide the necessary resources they need to develop and grow. Always lead by example and set clear expectations regarding the correct way to behave.