Who is responsible for youth violence?

To blame the kids is taking the easy way out.

Knife (illustrative) 370 (photo credit: Knife)
Knife (illustrative) 370
(photo credit: Knife)
A wave of violence and public disturbances by young people has swept over Israel during the past few months – and we still have the summer holidays ahead of us. Within a 48-hour period, youngsters have murdered two people during the night hours, and only recently we heard of a number of rapes and other incidents, on the Bogroshov beach and during the performance of the play Ghetto at the Cameri theater.
Everyone is shocked when they read about the violence, the lawlessness and the coldblooded murders, but blaming only the youth, claiming that they are “damaged” and “we have to react in a serious manner,” is the easy way out – too easy.
The question we need to ask is where are we, the adults? And is the education that we are giving our children suited to the era we live in, an era of constant, rapid change?
There is no doubt that something is wrong, terribly wrong, when our children seem to have lost the ability to differentiate between right and wrong. It is true that the above incidents have set off all the “warning lights” and cannot be ignored, but we have to delve much deeper than just apportioning blame. All of us, parents, educators and leaders in society have to try and work out the cause. Something is happening here, and we are missing a very important point.
There are many factors which are responsible for the culture of violence among youth today in its various forms. These factor vary from incident to incident, but there is no doubt that there is a deterioration in values which crosses geographical borders, and is causing a real crisis in Israeli society.
The perception of youth comes from information that has unfortunately not undergone any form of censorship or balance. Nor have they even shared basic discussions on “what is right and what is wrong” before being passed for viewing. In many cases we have no control over the content that they are absorbing. And we often have no interest in checking out this content because it is too easy to just “enjoy the quiet,” and the technology with is often used as a “babysitter” during leisure hours.
We do not like to ask questions and we think to ourselves “That is how it is today.” But these children grow into violent youngsters – and only then do we wake up to the damage that is being done, and cry out, “Why?” But we have brought it on ourselves!
As adults we have to take responsibility and examine ourselves. We have to adopt new and innovative approaches in educating toward values, which are suited to today’s reality and the ongoing availability of information. Approaches which can be implemented by those who are in ongoing contact with children and youth. It is too easy to just ignore what is happening in the heads of our children when they are glued to the various screens. When we finally wake up to the huge damage that is being done, it may be too late.
We can inculcate values and bring about a change in attitudes if we know how to approach each pupil, how to bring out the “good” in each of them as well as to set down clear limits.
There are no “bad” children. All children come into the world innocent, ready to be molded. It is our job as parents, educators and society to give them the right messages, in ways that speak to them, and bring out the best in them. It is up to us to give them the appropriate tools, in a clear and precise manner, so that they can differentiate between right and wrong, and to bring out the best of them in a super-technological world in which uncensored information is easily available to all.
It is possible. Thousands of youth in Israel are doing beautiful things, every day, usually as volunteers, who want to contribute to society, without wanting recognition or glory. I can give hundreds of examples in our own WIZO facilities and institutions. When deviations occur – we have to point the finger of blame at ourselves, the adults, and they have to serve as a warning that we have to go on searching for suitable ways to provide education based upon values.
The author is the chairwoman of the World WIZO Executive and a professor of education.