The teenage years are a unique time in a person's life and present a unique set of challenges, especially in today's society. Though not comprehensive, some of the more common challenges youth face include dating violence, Internet predators and gang violence.
Teen dating violence is similar to and can be as lethal as adult relationship violence. Both include hitting, yelling, threatening, name calling and other forms of verbal, sexual, emotional and physical abuse. About one in ten teen couples is affected by dating violence. These facts make it very important for parents/guardians to be aware of abusive relationships.
Parents should know both the warning signs of someone being abused in a dating relationship as well as someone who may actually be the abuser. They should be careful in choosing the timing and manner in which they try to talk to their teen about dating violence. Adults in a teen's life need to be role models for healthy relationships with their own partners.
Regardless of whether or not dating abuse is a current issue, parents need to talk with their teens about what is appropriate in a dating relationship and what kind of behavior is not acceptable. Parents should take into consideration their teen's maturity level when allowing them to date and set up safety nets such as establishing curfews, encouraging group dates, meeting and getting to know their teen's date, knowing where they are going/what they are doing, being available to pick up their teen should they get into a situation they're not comfortable with and creating a trusting environment to talk about ongoing dating issues.
(excerpts/content taken from the California Attorney General's Crime and Violence Prevention Center brochure on teen dating violence)
Computers and Internet access are valuable tools that children use for educational and recreational purposes. "Surfing the Web" and meeting new friends in "chat" rooms happen every day, but danger lurks on the Internet. Child predators are also surfing the web and lurking in chat rooms, where they disguise themselves as juveniles who share common interests with other "chatters."
Additionally, youth can run into trouble on such popular websites as myspace.com where individuals can not only misrepresent themselves but also defame others, posting false information with malicious intent. The behavior youth present online can be discovered long after a posting is supposedly removed, by such parties as prospective employers. Besides being wary of online predators, youth should be taught to act responsibly and appropriately when in cyberspace.
For a parent's guide to Internet safety, visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation's website: http://www.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguidee.htm
(excerpts/content taken from the California Attorney General's Crime and Violence Prevention Center SafeState website on child safety)
By the time children leave elementary school, they have seen 8,000 murders and more than 100,000 acts of television violence. As children near the end of their teenage years, they have witnessed over 200,000 violent acts in the media. ("Influence of Media Violence on Children", The Committee on Public Education of the American Academy of Pediatrics, 2002).
The California Department of Justice estimates that there could be as many as 300,000 gang members in this state. Street gangs in the west are frequently involved in the distribution of marijuana, methamphetamine and other drugs, according to a 2005 National Gang Threat Assessment report. The number of cases of identity and credit card theft perpetrated by gang members has increased. Gangs in the west are employing an increased level of sophistication in the planning and execution of criminal acts, especially against law enforcement officers.
Fortunately, juvenile arrests for 2005 in California continued to decline. From 2000 to 2005, juvenile arrests for felony offenses declined 14.7 percent in rate, and misdemeanor arrest rates declined 19.2 percent. These downward trends are an indication that early prevention and resource programs in schools and community policing are working for California's youth. (Crime in California, 2005, California Department of Justice)
(excerpts/content taken from the California Attorney General's Crime and Violence Prevention Center SafeState website on gangs and youth violence)
For a directory of local youth services contact information, a dating violence fact sheet and a parent's guide to recognizing and preventing teen involvement in gang activity, download and print the below documents.