Adolescent Crime: Is Your Kid at Risk?
Every parent knows that children in their formative age are capable of breaking the rules and going beyond the limits set by society and even law. Often, it is enough to turn on a TV or open a laptop to hear about glaring new cases of juvenile delinquency. It may seem that today’s younger generation is more prone to adolescent crime than those before it. The fact is that in a society there has always existed a certain number of people – both adults and youth – who were engaged in some type of criminal behavior. It is our digital world that makes us see and hear more of it. Today, a teen committing violent act has chances to land down on YouTube. Such notorious stories may make parents wonder what they should expect from their own child.
The Facts and the Biases
Even if your teenager already behaves negligently, the situation is never hopeless: such children are in desperate need of help. With strict and decisive actions from your side, as well as with your support they can be stopped from falling off the verge. A good thing for every parent to know and to be able to spot the signs of criminal behavior in their children. Thus, they’ll succeed in finding ways to prevent kids from taking the slippery road.
Today, juvenile delinquency in the US has become a more serious problem than parents could expect. Statistics are alarming:
- According to a 2015 study conducted by Federal Bureau of Investigation, juveniles (children under 18) were responsible for 10.2% of all violent crime and 14.3% of property crime arrests in 2015.
- According to the same study, 21,993 juveniles were arrested for aggravated assault, 2,745 for forcible rape and 605 for murder.
- According to a 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey, 16.2% reported carrying a weapon (gun, knife or club) on one or more days within the 30-day period preceding the survey. 5.3% of this number referred to carrying a gun. 4.1% reported carrying a weapon (gun, knife or club) to school.
- The same study states that 5.6% of youth did not attend school on one or more days within the 30 days preceding the survey because they didn’t feel safe at school or on their way from or to school.
- 6.0% of youth reported being threatened or injured with a weapon (gun, knife or club) at school one or more times within one year preceding the survey.
A common mistake among parents is being convinced that juvenile delinquency is something that under no circumstances may apply to their children. “My son is not like those underage criminals, he would never become a part of a gang and steal from people”; “No way can my daughter be that bad; she’d never abuse and threaten another girl at school” – that’s what the vast majority of parents would say if faced the fact of their kid’s inappropriate behavior. Does this sound familiar to you? Maybe, it’s even exactly what you think of your child?
The reality is different, though – being biased to their teens and constantly trying to find excuses for their behavior, parents may neglect the warning signs and miss the chance to stop children from inclining to the crime before it’s too late. Of course, moms and dads can’t be responsible for all of their kids’ actions and life choices. But they are definitely the ones to pay the closest attention to children’s development and growing up into a law-abiding adult.
Signs that It’s Time to Intervene
Every parent should know how to prevent juvenile delinquency, starting with their own family. It is essential to discuss the problem of teen criminal behavior with your child and teach them how to avoid gangs, which can draw a child into serious troubles with the law.
At no point should parents’ love become blind, not to let the most horrible and unexpected things happen. A good example is a case of two Wisconsin girls who tried to kill their peer in 2014. The two 12-year-olds attacked their classmate, Payton Leutner, and stabbed the girl 19 times after having lured her into a remote park 20 miles away from their home place. Luckily, their victim survived the tragic incident. Both underages claimed they committed this crime to please a fictional horror character called Slender Man. Both girls were tried as adults, considering the felony, and they were imprisoned for long terms. Their sentence stipulated supervision and mental health treatment as well.
Knowing possible reasons can help parents understand better why do teenagers commit crimes, as well as make vital changes in their child’s upbringing routine and surroundings. Below you’ll find some but not the only possible reasons that may have the strongest impact on a child’s development.
- From their young age a kid witnesses scenes of home aggression, ill-treatment, violence, and parents constantly fighting with each other;
- Experiencing abuse in a kid’s early childhood – verbal, physical or sexual;
- Being neglected by parents, not getting enough of their attention and care;
- Divorce or separation of parents; loss of a family member.
Here are the signs that may indicate a teen possibly being involved in criminal behavior:
- Increased outbursts of anger and aggression;
- Lack of compassion for animals and humans;
- Substances abuse; graffitis or tattoos; wearing clothes of one style and of one-two particular colors;
- Substances abuse;
- Fascination with weapons, possessing a weapon, carrying it around;
- Damaging and setting things on fire in outbursts of aggression;
- Missing school, breaking the curfew;
- Social isolation, withdrawal from family and usual activities, changes in sleep, diet, and daily routine; changes in surrounding, becoming friends with juvenile delinquents;
- Attempts of suicide and self-damage;
- Deterioration of mental health, depression.
When spotted one by one, these signs may not specifically speak for a teen having hidden criminal life. However, a combination of several of these signs should definitely put parents on the alert.
If you find out that your child is already involved in some kind of criminal activity, most sure your first impulse would be to do anything to save them from facing the consequences, including criminal liability. However, sometimes letting a young person go through the aftereffects of their behavior is the hardest but also the best decision parents can make. You can’t control your child’s actions; neither can you be responsible for them. Sometimes you need to motivate your kid by making them uncomfortable with their own behavior to help them change.
Yet, the best you can do is to prevent problems at the very source. Ensuring your child is growing up in a healthy and friendly family atmosphere is one of the vital things to do. Become a positive role model for them, develop a trusted relationship, be involved in their world and learn their surroundings. Encourage your child’s academic success, make their leisure exciting and engage them in extracurricular activities. Help them to find a first part-time job. Teach your teen to withstand peer pressure. After all, love of parents, their devotion, and care is all your child needs.