Public concern over youth violence in the United States has ebbed. Two years ago, it was regularly front-page news, with stories and follow-ups keyed to murderous rampages at schools.
But reduced news coverage doesn't necessarily mean reduced violence among the young. It's an ongoing problem demanding continuing attention. Surveys of young Americans indicate that violence - typically not reported as crime - is all too common in their lives, with 13 to 15 percent of high school seniors reporting they've committed an act of serious violence.
The persistence of youth violence is one conclusion of a report recently released by Surgeon General David Satcher. Another conclusion of the report is that communities, schools, and families are finding ways of preventing or reducing violence.
Programs mentioned in the report include school-based efforts to traIn children in problem solving and self-control; parent-awareness efforts aimed at the middle-school years, when kids first face the temptations of drugs and alcohol; and community efforts to provide attractive after-school activities for teens.
Dr. Satcher's report mentioned, but did not dwell on the effects of media violence on children. In this area, too, constructive steps are possible. A Stanford University study published this month found a reduced inclination toward violent or angry behavior among third- and fourth-graders who were helped to cut in half the time they spent watching TV or playing video games.
The common thread in every effort to counter youth violence is the need to change thinking. Fundamentally, that has to occur within the individual child, helped along by the love and care of adults. And few changes are more needed than a recognition of what's possible. As the Satcher study stated: "The most important conclusion of this report is that youth violence is not an intractable problem."
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society