Gangs and Youth Violence

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Recently, an increasing number of North American youth are committing violent crimes. Although the consequences of these violent crimes are easily apparent, the causes behind them are often abstract and obscure, making it difficult to pin blame on a single source. Moreover, this deviant behavior among young people can be attributed to a combination of several generalized factors. Leading contributing factors of youth violence include the media, the influence of family life, widespread abuse of drugs and alcohol, the ease of access to weapons and a lack of strong punishment that exists for juvenile offenders. If this rise in aggressive acts is to be stemmed, the causes youth violence must be determined and analyzed to determine which ones, if any can be affected by change. First, the most obvious and publicized cause explaining youth violence is the inescapable and highly influential exposure of youths to violence in the media, especially violence on television. Young people, most notably children are susceptible to learning violent ideals through their high level of exposure to North American television programming. Parents have come to rely on the use of television as a babysitting service and therefore have increased the influence of television on the fragile, easily manipulated minds of their children. On average, a typical Canadian child will watch about 22 hours of television per week (Childley 38). Over their adolescent lives, this adds up to more time spent watching television than time spent at school, playing sports or communicating with parents and friends (Childey 39). It is not the amount of television viewed that has created this problem, but rather it is the content of North American television that has spiraled out of control and that has warped the minds of countless children. The correlation between aggressive behavior and television viewing is accounted for by the violent content of modern television shows. Estimates have indicated that by the time a child reaches the age of twelve, s/he will have witnessed as many as 12, 000 violent deaths on television, and that this can lead to “heightened aggression in the short term” (Childley 38). We live in an era where Hollywood is applauded for its creativity and originality when it comes to new ways to murder characters. Consequently, it is no wonder that youth violence is up 140% in Canada sin... ... middle of paper ... ...nt sentencing of juvenile offenders who have committed acts of violence can succeed in rehabilitating them if they spend little or no time in a correctional institution. It can be conclusively stated that youth violence in North America is a multi-faceted issue and its causes can be approached from several angles. The media, particularly in the form of television plays an enormous role in presenting the world to young people, albeit it is a violent world that is presented. At home violence can be learned objectively or subjectively through observing a parent’s aggressive behavior or by experiencing it first hand. In addition, North American youth place themselves at a high predisposition to violence by selling and using drugs. In a legal sense, governments in North America seem to have done little in the way of setting up obstacles to restrain youths from committing violent crimes. All of these factors are not necessarily omnipresent, but enough influence from one or a combination of them is enough to incite violent behavior in young people anywhere. The extent and severity of these problems has already stigmatized an entire generation of youths, not to mention others to come.

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