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Youth Violence

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Warning Signs For Violence

It's impossible to predict which young people will turn violent, but certain behaviors have been identified as risk factors. Parents should consider it a warning sign if a child:

  • Displays cruelty to animals.
  • Prefers reading materials and entertainment that express violent themes. Reflects anger, frustration, and the dark side of life in school essays or in artwork.
  • Has a history of uncontrollable, angry outbursts.
  • Has threatened suicide.
  • Has a sudden change in appearance or in behavior, such as sleeping excessively or becoming cut off from longtime friends.
  • These signs define many of our youth today, but don't get paranoid; most young people who dress differently and go through a loner phase will never resort to violence. The key is to communicate with children and get help.
  • Don't ignore the signs. If children are allowed to get away with cursing parents or teachers without a response, they will move to more violent acts. Parents and teachers should adopt a "zero-tolerance" approach, humble themselves, pray, and ask for help from clergymen and professionals.

Assaults on U.S. Schools

Shootings involving U.S. schools:


1. Oct. 1, 1997 Pearl, MI Sixteen-year-old boy kills mother and shoots nine students, two fatally. 4. April 24, 1998 Edinboro, PA A science teacher is shot to death in front of students at an eighth grade graduation dance. A 14-year old student awaits trial. 6. May 21, 1998 Springfield, OR A 15-year-old boy allegedly opened fire at high school, killing two and injuring more that 20. His parents are found slain at their home.
2. Dec. 1st, 1997 West Paducah, KY Three students are killed and five others wounded by 14-year-old student. 5. May 19, 1998 Fayetteville, TN
An 18-year-old honor student allegedly opens fire in parking lot at high school, killing a classmate who was dating his ex-girlfriend.
7. April 20, 1999 Columbine, H.S. Littleton, CO Young men dressed in trench coats open fire on students. 13 killed, 2 gunmen committed suicide.
3. March 24, 1998 Jonesboro, AR Four girls and a teacher are shot to death and 10 people wounded when two boys, 11 and 13, open fire after setting off a false fire alarm at a middle school.   8. May 20, 1999 Conyers, GA A student wounded six other students.

Assaults Database (

Ways To Prevent School Violence

  • Schools broadcast a "lock-in code" that tell teachers and maintenance personnel to immediately lock all doors.
  • Identify students who may be at-risk for violence, provide counseling and support services, and offering in-class training in violence prevention, especially warning signs that are sent before children act violently.
  • Teachers, administrators, and parents need to work towards developing an atmosphere in which students feel comfortable telling somebody in authority when they fear that a fellow student may be headed for violent trouble.
  • School tip lines [to report potentially dangerous students] be implemented across the country.
  • Schools develop closer working partnerships with law enforcement, developing school crisis plans, and handling threats much more serious.
  • Alternative schools developed to handle disruptive students at the elementary school level.
  • Develop countrywide programs that involve local health, law enforcement, and religious components as well as educators.
  • Conflict resolution that deals directly with managing anger and resolving conflicts must begin in kindergarten.
  • Train students to mediate disputes before they escalate to school yard fights or worse.
  • The age-old problem of bullying, hazing, and harassment should be directly addressed in preventing violence.
  • Hard looks, stare downs, mad-dogging, and mean-mugging should be added as actionable offenses to the student code of conduct.
  • Reach out to our children and teach them to express their anger and to resolve their conflicts with words, not weapons.

Who & What People Blame

  • Parents and teachers simply not aware of what is going on at home and within school walls.
  • Preoccupation with weapons and explosives.
  • Gun control advocates place blame on the easy availability of guns. The Internet has become an easy channel for illegally obtaining weapons. A search for "gun dealers" on Internet search engines returns anywhere from 8,000 to more than 3 million Web pages.
  • Homemade bomb plans are readily available on the Internet and elsewhere, and their ingredients are easily obtainable at hardware stores or at firework stands. Kids who rub shoulders with an online subculture of racism and terrorism plays a role.
  • A softening of the nation's moral fiber as well as a lack of sufficient discipline.
  • Video fantasy games and movies for inspiring violent acts. For instance, the video games "Doom" and "Duke Nukem 3D" and the glorification of violence by the makers of the film The Basketball Diaries in which the main character (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) dreams about shooting his teachers and classmates. Researchers find that children who spend more time watching violent television behave more aggressively, and that murderous video games -- the kind where you win by killing targets -- affects players.
  • Children spend more time watching TV than they spend in the classroom. The typical child will have watched 100,000 graphic portrayals of violence, including 8,000 murders, by the time he or she finishes the sixth grade.
  • A wall between church and state that has grown so high. A decline in the influence of religion in America -- especially in public schools. It is said that, "People who pray together are not likely to kill one another."
  • Racial hatred as an expression of white-supremacist thinking.
  • Hate Internet sites are linked to gun-toting teenagers. There are 1,500 "problematic sites," including several hundred "extremist" sites preaching hate and race baiting. Many violent kids are Internet-savvy, with insatiable appetites for skinhead music, terrorism and the Aryan nation, advocating anti-Semitism, wearing swastikas and Holocaust denial. These sites target kids and teenagers using cartoon characters, puzzles, and "educational tutorials" to espouse white power. The deadliest violence took place on Hitler's 110th birthday.
  • The rise of violence-prone neo-Nazism and it's idea of the extreme individual -- the whole Nietzsche superhuman idea, whereas some like [rock singer] Marilyn Manson use that to shock and to sell albums, there are some in the movement who take it seriously and seek to act out their culture.
  • Neo-Nazism organizers have targeted very specifically the broad aspects of what is called "Extreme Music," including the king of "Black Metal," "Death Metal," and other kinds of music apparently favored by some young people who adopt the "Gothic" lifestyle and outlook.
  • The Gothic look and mannerisms of children trying on different identities, sometimes in succession, other times simultaneously. The morbid "Gothic" persona was born in the late '70s as an off-shoot of punk rock and inspired by ages old Gothic literature. Goths tend to consider Halloween their own Christmas, and life as a vampire an absolutely viable option. The Goth scene revolves around dark, dramatic fashion -- like capes and black vinyl pants -- and, especially, ethereal, moody, occult and satanic music. These kids enjoy deadly role-playing games or listening to violent music.
  • Revenge, resentments, and jealousies - Male athletes, tall, muscular and radiating confidence and authority in their Abercrombie shirts and jeans, tease and make fun of social outcasts saying, "Why do you dress like that, you freaks?" One of the young killers said, "I'm sick of being made fun of." "The athletes and stuff are really popular...they make fun of me all the time," one young person said. Some boys get sick of it and decide not to take it any longer.
  • Doomsday thinking expect a showdown between 'us' and 'them," and think that time is running out, and decide they might as well take preventive action or seek revenge before it is too late. For instance, one observer said, "The Trench Coat Mafia" in Colorado seems to have cobbled together an eclectic world view from bits and pieces from multiple apocalyptic genre such as Nostradamus: youth culture Gothic rituals, death talking, reading, dreaming, and symbols, violent computer games, neo-Nazi lore, anarchist musical genre. The result was a type of apocalyptic nihilism. They acted out their beliefs."
  • An "uncivil" society that encourages ridicule and cynicism in life and in art, poetry, music and costumes of a scene that ranges from benign fantasy to violent reality. Some simply dress and paint their fingernails black while others immerse themselves in a pseudo medieval world of dark images.

What The Experts Say . . .

Experts and researchers are increasingly convinced there is a solid link between TV and other media violence, and the violence of the nations' youth.

The American Psychiatric Association says, "For the last three decades, the one predominant finding in research on the mass media is the exposure to media portrayals of violent increased aggressive behavior in children." While favoring TV ratings and media skills training for children, the American Psychiatric Association has concluded nothing is more critical than parents' involvement in their kids' viewing habits.

The health group says parents may be underestimating the extent to which researchers have defined the connection between media violence and actual violence by children, and the ways in which video games and the Internet are accentuating the threat.

A 1998 study by the Minneapolis-based National Institute on Media and the Family found that the average American youth watches 25 hours a week and plays computer games another seven hours. Children with Internet access spend an additional four hours weekly, the survey found.

By age 18, according to the American Psychiatric Association, an American child will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, media violence may cause aggressive and antisocial behavior, desensitize viewers to future violence and increase perceptions that they are living "in a mean and dangerous world." The cause-and-effect relationship between media violence and actual violence "is undeniable and uncontestable," the group says.

Experts say the problem can cause lasting trouble for pre-adolescents. Children under age 8 "...cannot uniformly discriminate between real life and fantasy/entertainment," said the pediatrics group. "They quickly learn that violence is an acceptable solution to resolving even complex problems, particularly if the aggressor is the hero."

Health care groups say wise parents will spend extensive time monitoring their children's TV, movie and computer habits, and will talk with them about what they're seeing.

In 1996, the American medical Association published a guide for parents intent on limiting the media's influence on their children. Among their recommendations.

  • Limit television use to one to two hours per day. Keep the TV off during mealtimes and out of children's bedrooms.
  • Don't use TV, videos or video games as a babysitter; set a good example by limiting your own TV viewing.
  • Watch what your children are watching and talk about the program while its on.
  • Study up on movies that are playing and videos available for rental or purchase. Be explicit with children about movie choice.

But some experts worry that all of parents best efforts may not be enough.

"In case after case I've observed just how easily the lessons of well-meaning and capable parents are overpowered by the compelling and pervasive messages of violence in our modern video culture," said University of Virginia professor Dewey Cornell.

In testimony to Congress, Cornell said he was horrified by the recent school slayings.

"To charge into a building and try to kill as many people as possible is an enactment of video violence." he said. "We protect adults from consumer fraud and deceptive advertising better than we protect our children from these salesmen of hate and violence."

Who's Really Responsible?

Helen Smith, a forensic psychologist in Knoxville, TN, who has worked with thousands of troubled youth says, "What I have found so far is that there as many reasons as there are killers."

Dr. Smith rejects the "bad seed" theory that some propound -- the notion that such young people are "no darn good." But she says, "The truth is that teens who kill -- in school settings or elsewhere -- are already deeply disturbed individuals who are easily set over the edge.

Politicians would have us believe that if we can pass new and better laws, we can cut down on juvenile crime. But this is not the case. The best protection against school violence is to be found in caring, hands-on teachers and responsible, involved parents. You can't get those by legislating."

Rep. Henry Hyde, R-III, the author of a package on youth violence being debated in congress found, it's exceedingly difficult to legislate curbs on the media that don't run afoul of First Amendment freedom-of-expression guarantees. He warned parents that they should not become complacent about media violence. He said, "Parents ultimately bear the responsibility for the environment in which their children are raised." He continued by saying, "We can pass laws to keep this garbage out of the hands of kids, but parents have to guide their children away from the polluting environment the greedy purveyors of violence are eager to sell."

Bottom line, young men who choose to kill are responsible for their own actions. They are very troubled and angry at their inability to fit in -- an anger they directed at groups they perceived as enemies. These kids are on the edge and on the outside, loners, and misfits.

What's Missing?

America's children today are a lost generation. No other generation in history has been so plagued by sex, drugs, alcohol, greed, and murder at such a young age. My question is, who is to blame?

Everyone knows something terrible has happened in our nation's schools. Crime and violence have become so common, many school buildings now have metal detectors. Seventh-grade boys are able to obtain guns and mow down their classmates with no sorrow at all.

Our educational system itself has become vile and perverted. Teachers are introducing students to atheism, evolution, homosexual lifestyles, permissive sexual attitudes, anti-religious bigotry. A teacher can't place a Bible on his desk -- but he can display literature on subjects ranging from communism to pornography.

Ever since our judicial system shut God out of our schools, Satan has taken them over. Yet I am convinced it is not our corrupt school system that is damning our children.

Our entire society is experiencing a moral collapse. Cultural programs and art exhibits have become filthy and vulgar, making profanity commonplace. Even respected leaders in government and business positions use vile language freely. They curse Christ and damn God's name without even thinking about it.

America's moral collapse has become so urgent, even liberal atheists acknowledge that our foundations are being threatened. Yet it is not our corrupt society that is damning our children.

The entire media today appears to be demon-controlled. MTV is the devil's private network, with Satan himself presiding as CEO. Music videos have become nothing more than lewd pornography with wicked, demoralizing lyrics.

You have to wonder what kind of demon-possessed minds could push such perversion on an entire generation of youth. The sellers of this hellish filth obviously have wrecked their own lives, and now they'll settle for nothing less than ruining the next generation. Yet even the wicked music scene isn't responsible for damning our youth.

In advertising, sex sells anything. No sexual act is considered sinful anymore. Anything goes, so that with everything passing hour America sinks deeper into debauchery. And it's all being promoted by a media in collusion with the powers of hell. Yet as bad as advertising companies have become, they aren't to blame for damning our youth.

You may wonder about the influence of a dead, compromising church that brings worldly filth into God's house. Many pastors now routinely deny the existence of heaven, hell, and the virgin birth. Their churches have empty shells, having a form of godliness but no power. And their services have become so bland that the youth leave in droves. Young people are left thinking Christianity is totally irrelevant to their lives.

Many worship leaders have replaced hymns with MTV-style rock music that mentions Jesus only in passing. Instead of offering holy worship, churches now stage body-slamming punk-rock concerts, where menacing, tattooed, body-pierced band members gyrate wildly, polluting God's house with the music of angry rebellion.

Yet as dry and worldly as the compromising church has become, it is not the primary force that is damning our children.

Many parents -- including Christians -- blame all of these things for the lost of our youth. When their children stray, turning to drugs or alcohol, these parents rage against schools, the government, the media, the church, their kid's peers. Some end up removing their children from public schools and enrolling them in Christian schools. But too often their kids' rebellion only grows worse.

Even unconverted parents take such action with their kids. They want nothing to do with religion -- yet they send their children to Sunday school hoping it will instill in them some positive principles. They expect that in just an hour each week the teachers will magically transform their young rebels into angels. But when it doesn't happen, those parents blame the church for the chaos their child still brings to their home.

Who Is to Blame for the Loss of Our Children?

All of the forces I have named do play a part in the disintegration of our youth. But neither schools, culture, media, wicked music nor backslidden churches alone are causing all the ruin. The truth is, the responsibility for this generation of youth rests primarily with parents. The home is where most seeds of rebellion and wickedness are being sown.

Please don't misunderstand -- I am not blaming all youth rebellion on parents. Some responsibility must be placed directly upon the young person for their own choices. There are also other causes of their worldliness.

Nehemiah Said, "Appoint Watches of the Inhabitants of Jerusalem, Every One in His Watch, and Every One to Be Over Against His House" (Nehemiah 7:3)

According to Nehemiah, guardians were to be appointed not just to the gates of the holy city Jerusalem, but to every home as well. In short, the heads of every household -- that is, the parents -- were responsible for everything that came into their home.

God's message here is crystal clear: Fathers and mothers, you are charged to guard your home from every demonic enemy that tries to enter. This means you are responsible for every book, every record, every friend your child brings through the door. You are also responsible for every influence within your home, whether it's TV, videos or the Internet.

I sincerely believe that parents today need more wisdom and discernment than at any other in history. Satan has many more wicked inventions and subtle disguises to use against God's people. And only through daily, diligent prayer and immersion in God's word will we have power against him as guardians over our homes.

Before I go any further, I want to encourage all single parents: God knows your struggle to be both a father and a mother to your children. Yet his charge to you remains the same: You are the appointed guardian over your house. You can't wait for a mate to come in and do the job for you. The Lord promises to provide all grace and strength to you if you will stand up for his word in your home.

As I think of the two boys in Colorado who killed their classmates and themselves, I wonder: Where were the parents? Those boys were making pipe bombs in the family garage. And their rooms were full of clues about what they were up to: hate material, threatening notes, black coats and hats. Didn't their father check up on them occasionally? Didn't their mother ever go into their rooms to clean up, and notice all the demonic paraphernalia? Apparently, there was no guard at their door.

Today, whenever I see teenagers with pierced tongues, demonic symbols, and spiked hair, I recognize these as mere symptoms. Such kids are crying out, "Mom, Dad, you're neglecting me. You're too busy -- you don't even notice I exist."

One day we're all going to stand before the judgment seat and answer to the Lord for how we raised our children. And in that moment, none of us will be able to offer excuses or blame anyone else. Therefore, we have to examine ourselves today, asking: Have we brought up our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord? Have we modeled for them a life of love and reverence for God?

I remember playing outside as a boy and hearing my mother pray for me form the third floor of our house. Her example remains vivid in my memory. Later, when my wife and I were raising our children, we did the same, praying for our kids according to Proverbs: "Lord, make our sons as oaks beside the waters of life. And make our daughters as polished stones in your palace. Keep them all from the schemes of the wicked one."

Every Christian parent has high hopes for his child. I see this regularly in our congregation, as parents bring their children forward to be dedicated to the Lord. Our pastoral staff prays for God's love and protection over these little ones. Then we anoint them with oil and ask the Holy Ghost to put a wall of fire around them.

But occasionally, I can't help wondering: How many of those precious children are going to end up in the devil's clutches -- on drugs, into crime -- because their mom and dad got careless about the spiritual atmosphere in their home? Will they end up in ruin because their parents were wrapped up in their own problems, never giving them attention or proper discipline?

Maybe you're a parent who hurts because your grown son or daughter no longer serves the Lord. Or, perhaps you're heartbroken because your youngster is hooked on drugs or alcohol. You've seen your once-tender child grow bitter, hard, and lost.

This message is not meant to condemn you. No one can take back his or her past. But I do have a question for you. As you look back on your parenting years, ask yourself: Were you a true guardian over your home? Did you bathe your children in prayer daily? Or were you too busy? Did you allow your kids to intimidate you?

That is all in the past now. Yet there remains something you can do: You still have a calling as a watchman to pray diligently for your child's salvation. That's right -- you can make up in prayer today what you might have missed in past years. You can still seek God's face, bathe your loved one in prayer, and call down Holy Ghost conviction on him to bring him to the cross.

I must warn you, however -- if your kids are backslidden or unsaved, you must not preach at them. Simply pray for them. You can't nag anyone into the kingdom of heaven. Addict after addict has told me, "My ears still ring form my mother's screaming. I could hear her all the way down the block."

There is no real power in raising your voice, because all power rests with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, be empowered by your respect for God's word. When someone walks through your front door, they should sense God's authority in your home right away, without a word being mentioned. And until your children become adults, you are the guardian in charge who has authority to set down all the rules.

Scripture makes it very clear that if you raise your children on the authority of God's word, they won't depart from that training in their later years. They may veer away from it for a while, even for years -- but ultimately it will bring them to truth.

The Bible Offers a Word of Hope 
to All Parents Who Grieve 
Over a Backslidden Child.

Here is a covenant promise that every parent should memorize. It applies both to children who have been lost and to those presently under your care:

"Yet now hear, 0 Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, 0 Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.

"For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground. I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water course" (Isaiah 44:1-4).

This word of promise to Israel is also meant for us today. Its words of comfort are given to all who are chosen (see verse 1) -- meaning, all who are in Christ.

The Lord begins by telling us in verse 1-2, "I am the Lord who made you, and I know your pain. I am going to help you now. You don't have to fear." The word for Jesurun in this verse means righteous one. In other words, God makes these promises to his righteous ones -- glorious, binding, covenant promises. The promises are:

God will provide water to satisfy our thirst: "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground" (verse 3). Has the Lord brought you his thirst-quenching word? Has he come to you in your dry spells and flooded you with his Spirit? Are you drinking the pure water of his word?

If so, you are ready to claim another covenant promise:

I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses" (verse 3-4).

As you may know, willow trees grow fast and tall and they spread wide. You often see them growing beside streams or bodies of water. God is saying here, "Because you are my chosen, I'm going to pour my Spirit out on your children. And I will cause them to grow tall and strong in the Lord."

As you read and reread these verses, I urge you to fill in your lost child's name. Claim God's promise to you by praying, "Lord, you said you would pour your Spirit on my child. Now, bless my children, Joshua, Benjamin, Mary, and Andrew. Pour out your Spirit on them. Cause them to thirst for your living water."

Finally, God says your children will testify, "I am the Lord's" (verse 5). What an incredible promise.

Yet these promises are not for everyone who merely says, "I am of Christ." They are only for hungering, thirsting parents -- those who drink in God's word daily, praying regularly, asking the Spirit to pour out on them his power and presence.

If this describes you, then speak God's promises. Claim them as yours, and hold the Lord to them in your intercession. Then bathe your family in prayer -- and watch the enemy flee.

("What's Missing" is from the late David Wilkerson's Times Square Church Pulpit Series, and sent out every three weeks free of charge. If you would like to be added to the mailing list, write: World Challenge, Inc. P.O. Box 8930, Pueblo, CO 81008-9802 or call (719) 487-7888.)

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