Here in Washington State, the recent stabbing of two high school students in a school with a good reputation has made many parents and students aware of the implications teen violence can have on a community. Many of the communities in the Pacific Northwest do not routinely think about safety or violence. Parents are involved in community organizations, students attend homecomings and football games. Violent acts may go unnoticed or may be thought of only as associated with gangs, yet violence is a very big public health problem. Violence amongst teens and young adults is the second leading cause of death in the age group of youth ages 10-24!
Violence can take many forms: yes, it can include gang activity, but it also includes bullying or teasing, which cause emotional harm. It can be arguments that turn physical, including fights with weapons, over everything from boyfriends and girlfriends, to drugs and alcohol. A recent nationwide study found that 32% of high school students in the US have been in a physical fight and close to 6% of high school students reported bringing a weapon to school (a firearm, knife, or club). Over 650,000 youth are treated in emergency departments for injuries from violence per year. An average of 16 youth ages 10-24 were murdered each day in 2007 alone.
Though risk factors for violence include poor grades, poverty, a history of violence, and drug use, teens that are good students or live in affluent communities can also be victims of violence or violent offenders. So what can parents and community members do to prevent violent acts amongst teens?
Of course the main goal is to prevent violence before it happens.
Talk with your teen about how to solve conflicts. Be a role model. If you disagree with someone, instead of yelling or threatening harm, have a discussion about how you can solve the conflict.
If there is ongoing violence in your community, attend community forum meetings and work with your neighbors on ways to monitor your surroundings.