Youths in Crisis
◼ In the United States, a 15-year-old student opens fire on his classmates, killing 2 and injuring 13.
◼ In Russia, a group of intoxicated teens brutally murder a nine-year-old girl and beat up her father and cousin.
◼ In Britain, a 17-year-old boy beats and stabs a younger teen. “I didn’t intend to kill him at first,” he tells the police, “but when I saw the blood I just let go.”
SHOCKING incidents like these are not isolated events. They cannot be brushed off as mere aberrations. “Youth violence is a major problem in our society,” says an article in Professional School Counseling. Statistics back this claim.
The U.S. National Center for Education Statistics notes that while there has been some decline in reported school violence in that country, “students ages 12-18 were victims of about 2 million nonfatal crimes of violence or theft at school in 2001.” There has also been an increase in reports of school bullying.
But not all youth violence in the United States is directed at other students. “Over the 5-year period from 1997 through 2001,” the same source reports, “teachers were victims of approximately 1.3 million nonfatal crimes at school, including 817,000 thefts and 473,000 violence crimes.” Furthermore, “9 percent of all elementary and secondary school teachers were threatened with injury by a student, and 4 percent were physically attacked by a student.”
The picture in other lands? “China arrested 69,780 juvenile delinquents in 2003,” reports one news agency, “an increase of 12.7 percent over 2002.” The news item notes that “gang crimes accounted for 70 percent of juvenile delinquency.” A report from Japan in 2003 similarly said that youths were responsible for half the crimes committed in the preceding ten years.
Drugs—An Assault on Young Bodies
Further evidence of trouble involves the assault that many young ones are making against their own bodies. A report by the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse states that about half of all teenagers in that land have tried an illicit drug before finishing high school. The report adds: “Alcohol use remains extremely widespread among today’s teenagers. Nearly four out of every five students (77%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school; and nearly half (46%) have done so by 8th grade.”
In this age of AIDS, promiscuous sex is unquestionably dangerous. Yet, many youths seem to view sex as little more than a harmless game. Some American youths, for example, blithely speak of “hooking up”—a harmless-sounding euphemism for casual sex. They talk about having “a friend with benefits”—a sexual partner who makes no emotional demands.
Author Scott Walter describes the orgylike parties some suburban youths throw while their parents are at work. At one such party, a young girl announced that “she was going to have sex with all the boys there. . . . Children as young as 12 were involved in the parties.”
Shocking? Not to experts who have studied teenage sexual behavior. “Over the past 20 years,” writes Dr. Andrea Pennington, “we have seen the average age for teenagers engaging in sexual activity grow younger and younger. It is no longer unusual to find boys and girls starting out as young as 12 years of age.”
Particularly distressing was a report in the newspaper USA Today: “Increasing numbers of the country’s youngest teens . . . are having oral sex. . . . Kids have convinced themselves that ‘this is not really sex.’” According to one survey of 10,000 girls, “eighty percent said they are virgins, but 25% had had oral sex. And 27% described that act as ‘something you do with a guy for fun.’”
Such views on sex have made inroads elsewhere. “Asia’s youth are becoming increasingly susceptible to HIV through heterosexual relationships with many becoming sexually active at a younger age,” reports UNESCO, adding: “Teenagers are increasingly shirking their parents’ ‘Asian values’ by having premarital sex, often with multiple partners.”
Further signs of youthful distress? Canada’s Women’s Health Weekly reports: “Twenty-five percent of females between ages 16 and 19 will experience an episode of major depression.” However, depression is an illness that afflicts both sexes. According to U.S.News & World Report, every year up to five thousand young people kill themselves. For some reason, the report notes, “boys kill themselves six times more often than do girls.”
Without a doubt, today’s generation of youths is a deeply troubled one. What is behind this crisis?
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