Violence Amongst our Teens

With another unfortunate and saddening school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut which left 27 families without a loved one, we are reminded once again to look at and be thankful for the safety of our children.  As we send our heartfelt thoughts to those affected by this tragedy, we must also look into our own schools and the violence in our teens’ lives.

While we are fortunate that these fatal tragedies don’t happen daily, there is a great deal of violence in our schools that goes nearly unmentioned and unattended to. A recent study from Duke University found that until 2010, more teens were threatened than actually injured, however, these trends have now merged so that both threats and injuries occur at the same level.  In a given year there are 1.7 million nonfatal crimes committed at schools, ranging from assault to theft.  About one-third of students age 12 and up are the victims of school bullying.  Of this bullying, middle schools appear to have the highest rates of bullying with nearly 43% of students reporting being bullied.

There are many factors that contribute to teen violence.

    • The increased accessibility to violence that comes with access to a computer and television appears to have a large influence on teens.  A study reported in 2008 found that teens and preteens aged 10 – 15 who were frequent visitors to websites that included depictions of violence by real people, were five times more likely to report that they themselves had engaged in violent behavior than were young people of the same age who did not visit such websites.  Today teens spend a great deal of time with computers, phones, televisions and video games.  While these all seem like harmless devices it is important to remember that too much exposure can lead to increased violence in teens.


    • Another reason teens engage in violent behavior is to improve and maintain their social status.  Studies show that young people who want to be better appreciated and respected within their group are the most likely to be violent.  Violence appears to maintain social status by intimidating other students and lowering others self-confidence.  This violence can in turn increase violence within the school because those who experience bullying or teasing may become enraged enough to begin acting out in revenge and engage in violence themselves.


  • Lastly, teen violence can be caused by frustration due to learning disorders, emotional distress, or attention deficits.  In some cases teens do not know how to appropriately channel their frustrations and act out in anger as a form of release.


As we learn more about the factors leading up to violence in our teens, it is important to take steps to prevent such horrific crimes from happening within the safety of our schools and within our community.


    • Monitoring and limiting our children’s exposure to violence in movies and television, on the internet and in video games is important to decreasing rates of violence.


    • Another key factor in reducing violence amongst our teens is to ensure that teens are not exposed to violence within the home.  A teen growing up with their mother being abused will more likely be a violent teenager and adult, than a teen that grows up in a loving home.  Creating a home environment of respect and courtesy teaches children how to respect one another and teaches them to consider the feelings of others.


    • Lastly, a great way to reduce teen violence is to stay involved in the lives of our teens.  Keeping open communication allows teens to express their feelings in more appropriate ways.  Involvement also permits us to notice warning signs of violence including increased seclusion and poor behavior.  It is important that we speak with our teens and offer our support.


Violence is preventable and with effort and involvement, we can reduce tragedies such as this weekend’s occurring.


Additional Resources


Teen Violence Statistics


Ten for Teens Campaign

This holiday season, we know it’s become increasingly difficult for people to donate to the causes they support. But with every family’s economic struggle, we also find that teens are having an even harder time communicating about the pressures and issues that come up day after day. That’s why we’ve launched the “Ten for Teens” campaign. For just a $10 donation, you can make a huge difference in the life of a teen who needs support, resources and to be heard.


The SCV Youth Project is an innovative and community-based venture that teaches youth to successfully deal with the concerns they face daily and to avoid high risk behavior such as drug use, violence, dropping out of school and running away. Our aim is to intervene early and often, offering effective prevention to all local students grades, 7 – 12 and their parents.


Some of the services SCV Youth Project provides:

Peer Mentoring One-to-one, confidential support, as it relates to ANY issue (anger, grief, depression, school, family, etc).  Mentors meet with students on campus, as often as they request.

Crisis Intervention Peer Mentors are available to respond to crisis calls, within a reasonable time frame, no matter what the issue.

Classroom Presentations These presentations provide information that help students on all levels, from communication, to life skills, to college prep to goal setting.  We can tailor presentations, to fit the needs of each campus.

Lunchtime Madness An informal pizza and game party, to help kids become more social on their campus.

Teen 411 Outreach campaign, in alignment with National Awareness Campaigns to educate students about obesity, anti-smoking, suicide prevention, child abuse/neglect prevention, etc.


Support Groups, including but not limited to:

Teenage Grief Group Designed to equip students who have faced the loss of a loved one in their life, whether family or friend, with the skills to deal with their grief, and with a safe place to talk about their loss.

Life Skills Group The goal of this group is to prepare students for the transition to living independently, and covers such topics as moving from the family home, finances, college and career goals, time management and car ownership.

Male Issues Group This group deals specifically with the challenges that young men face today, including: peer pressure, dealing with emotions, respect, handling anger, family relationships, decision making, violence and drugs and alcohol education.

Conflict Resolution Group The goal of this group is to give students the skills they need to effectively and positively deal with conflict in their lives.  Anger management, communication, listening and respect are key topics.

Families in Transition Our Families in Transitions Group is very effective in helping students learn to live peacefully within their own family.  This group focuses on issues surrounding a change in the family environment, (divorce, blended families, etc.). Teens will be given a chance to talk about family dynamics, roles in the home, healthy communication and how to cope with change and loss. It is currently offered as a bilingual group.

Family Issues The focus of the Family Issues Group is similar to that of that of the Families in Transition, but is not specific to families that are in transition, but applies to all families. Discussion topics will include: how to live peacefully within your family, how to communicate effectively with your family, respect, setting family specific goals, and how to cope with family rules while developing a sense of independence.

Teen Issues Anything goes in this group … co-ed group to discuss all issues that a teen may be facing, from relationships to bullying, drugs/alcohol abuse, sex, grades, family ….

Girls Issues Group This group is designed to guide and support young women through education and mentoring in order to empower them to make healthy lifestyle choices.  Topics include relationships, body image, goal setting, decision making, respect, anger management and drugs and alcohol education.

Pregnant Teens Group for pregnant or parenting teens and their partners.  The groups focus is to ensure students have the resources they need, gain support from others in their same situation, help with emotional stress around pregnancy or parenting, and a focus on keeping students in school and educated.


Parenting education & support It is our goal to expand our program to include parent education; our staff will provide parenting education and support services to parents.  Topics include: communicating with your teen, drug & alcohol use, gang affiliation, how to help your child succeed in school and other relevant issues.

Employment Assistance Do you need help finding a job? We can help you fill out job applications, write a resume, learn interview skills and provide you with tips to get that job you’re looking for.

Educational Assistance Our staff is available to help students and families navigate through the school system, fill out college applications and assist with tutoring on a case by case basis, if staffing permits.

Family Mediation Sometimes sitting down and working out problems as a family can be difficult. Our staff is available to help families find solutions to their current circumstances and begin to understand each other’s point of view.




Bullying is when a person is picked on over and over again by an individual or group with more power, either in terms of physical strength or social standing.

Every day thousands of teens wake up afraid to go to school. Bullying is a problem that affects millions of students, and it has everyone worried, not just the kids on its receiving end.  Yet because parents, teachers, and other adults don’t always see it, they may not understand how extreme bullying can get.

Two of the main reasons people are bullied are because of appearance and social status. Bullies pick on the people they think don’t fit in, maybe because of how they look, how they act (for example, kids who are shy and withdrawn), their race or religion, or because the bullies think their target may be gay or lesbian.

Some bullies attack their targets physically, which can mean anything from shoving or tripping to punching or hitting, or even sexual assault. Others use psychological control or verbal insults to put themselves in charge. For example, people in popular groups or cliques often bully people they categorize as different by excluding them or gossiping about them (psychological bullying). They may also taunt or tease their targets (verbal bullying).

Verbal bullying can also involve sending cruel instant or email messages or even posting insults about a person on a website — practices that are known as cyberbullying.

What can you do if you are being bullied?

  • Talk about it. It may help to talk to a guidance counselor, teacher, or friend or a trusted adult— anyone who can give you the support you need. Talking can be a good outlet for the fears and frustrations that can build when you’re being bullied.  It may be suggested to you, that your situation be reported to authorities; don’t get scared by that concept – it’s important to remember that your safety is the number one concern; staying silent can give the bully more freedom to become more violent.
  • Ignore the bully and walk away. It’s definitely not a coward’s response — sometimes it can be harder than losing your temper. Bullies thrive on the reaction they get, and if you walk away, or ignore hurtful emails or instant messages, you’re telling the bully that you just don’t care. Sooner or later the bully will probably get bored with trying to bother you. Walk tall and hold your head high. Using this type of body language sends a message that you’re not vulnerable.
  • Avoid being alone. If you’re in a bullying situation that you think may escalate into physical violence, try to avoid being alone (and if you have a friend in this situation, spend as much time as you can together). Try to remain part of a group by walking home at the same time as other people or by sticking close to friends or classmates during the times that the bullying takes place.
  • Hold the anger. Who doesn’t want to get really upset with a bully? But that’s exactly the response he or she is trying to get. Bullies want to know they have control over your emotions. If you’re in a situation where you have to deal with a bully and you can’t walk away with poise, use humor — it can throw the bully off guard. Work out your anger in another way, such as through exercise or writing it down (make sure you tear up any letters or notes you write in anger).
  • Don’t get physical. However you choose to deal with a bully, don’t use physical force (like kicking, hitting, or pushing). Not only are you showing your anger, you can never be sure what the bully will do in response. You are more likely to be hurt and get in to trouble if you use violence against a bully. You can stand up for yourself in other ways, such as gaining control of the situation by walking away or by being assertive in your actions. Some adults believe that bullying is a part of growing up (even that it is character building) and that hitting back is the only way to tackle the problem. But that’s not the case. Aggressive responses tend to lead to more violence and more bullying for the victims.
  • Practice confidence. Practice ways to respond to the bully verbally or through your behavior. Practice feeling good about yourself (even if you have to fake it at first).
  • Take charge of your life. You can’t control other people’s actions, but you can stay true to yourself. Think about ways to feel your best — and your strongest — so that other kids may give up the teasing. Exercise is one way to feel strong and powerful. (It’s a great mood lifter, too!) Learn a martial art or take a class like yoga. Another way to gain confidence is to hone your skills in something like chess, art, music, computers, or writing. Joining a class, club, or gym is a great way to make new friends and feel great about yourself. The confidence you gain will help you ignore the mean kids.
  • Find your (true) friends. If you’ve been bullied with rumors or gossip, all of the above tips (especially ignoring and not reacting) can apply. But take it one step further to help ease feelings of hurt and isolation. Find one or two true friends and confide how the gossip has hurt your feelings. Set the record straight by telling your friends quietly and confidently what’s true and not true about you. Hearing a friend say, “I know the rumor’s not true. I didn’t pay attention to it,” can help you realize that most of the time people see gossip for what it is — petty, rude, and immature.