Children and Media Violence and Crime

Counselors and educators of young offenders and other at-risk youth need to be aware of how various orientations carry different, and sometimes opposing, beliefs and assumptions which create confusion over prevention and intervention practices in community and school. Four primary models are evident. 1. Societal change model. Youth crime is a product of society and its institutions (family, community, school) and is beyond the control of the individual. Intervention in this model addresses issues of poverty and inequity in the community rather than "correcting" the individual.

Welfare model. The young offender is assumed to be have psycho/social deficiencies that cause offending behavior. Intervention provides appropriate therapy to rehabilitate the individual. 3. Justice model. Society must be protected from offenders. Individuals commit crime of their own free will, must be held responsible, and might pay the penalty set by society under due process. 4. Crime-control model. Societal order is maintained through laws that punish wrong doing, achieve retribution through punishment, and deter criminality by threat of punishment. Youth are no exception.

(Campbell 1997, 2) This model harkens back to control theory in that the responsibility is not in the hands of the offender alone. In certain instances the split from a home life, and the base that provides with coping with high-pressure situations, lead the young offender down the path of crime. There are noted deficiencies in coping abilities, anger, and acting out that further the idea that crime allows them to instantaneously get what they want, and deserve. The juvenile justice system serves as a course of intervention that allows the chance for the young offender to become rehabilitated.

In control theory, the results depend highly on the bond the young offender forms with relations. The threat that youth presents to society seems to prevent society from accepting them as anything less than criminal; in this fact it is very difficult to rehabilitate that offender back into society if society doesn’t accept the truth of their rehabilitation. Trying to find programs that have a lasting effect and that allow society to believe in rehabilitated youth is one of the only hopes a young offender has in preventing their own involvement in crime.

There are counseling interventions that allow the juvenile delinquent a chance to readjust to their new life without crime, and that prepare them for life in society. Following is a list of programs that do and don’t work according to Campbell, "Quick fix" programs do not work. Programs must be offered over months, not weeks, and of sufficient intensity to change entrenched behaviors and attitudes. Follow-up "booster" sessions contribute to program effectiveness. Programs that employ single aims or strategies do not work.

Youth offending has no single cause and the young offender population is far from homogeneous. Successful programs are multi-faceted. They use multiple strategies (e. g. , skills, problem-solving, self-monitoring, aggression control), have multiple targets (e. g. , individual, peers and home), and have multiple specific goals that typically generalize over time and across settings. (Campbell 1997,2) There are short-term, and long-term effects of these different programs, and some studies have not allowed for the complexity of criteria to be fully examined.

Campbell goes on to state that, Programs do not work when those who offer them do not believe in their efficacy. Successful programs can fail because of cynicism among those who implement and administer them. Lack of program fidelity is a common cause of failure. Successful programs are often complex, a reflection of the complex causes of youth offending. If they are not delivered as designed and those implementing them are not well trained, successful programs can fail. (Campbell 1997, 3).

It cannot be stressed enough the workability of school programs in fostering in juvenile delinquents a sense of self-worth in society. Group homes are another program that is beneficial in rehabilitation:  These programs insight promise to, not only the offender, but also to society and family members, in regards to rehabilitation. The programs allow for the young delinquent to find a job, work on trade skills, get an education, and in general maintain their identity as a normal person in society and one who conforms to societal standards.

For other programs presented by Campbell, the focus is the same as with most other rehabilitative standards, strength of conformity as a working member of society. Campbell states of the Breakaway Company, which allows juveniles to be ‘employees’ and make products and money, The Company "products" are reflected in its objectives: discovering one's own abilities and job-related skills, and learning cognitive-behavioral strategies that address problem-solving, interpersonal relations, and aggression control.

Evaluation of the program over 2 years indicates that most students learn the strategies and apply them in various settings. In 6 to 8 month follow-up interviews, participants reported such observations as: "You just stop and think before you do everything now. It's just natural now… "; "Now I think out problems in slow motion. "; "I learned how to control my anger . . . [I] think about it, sit down, and say, 'Look what you're doing wrong'. " (Campbell 1997,3).

For these types of programs it is important to note the willingness of participants to curve their previous desire to commit crimes. This willingness in and of itself proves that rehabilitation works, and the sooner a juvenile delinquent is tried in court and given a sentence into a similar program the sooner they will be able to enter back into society. In comparison, this program far outweighs trying young offenders as adults in that the rate of re-offending is more likely in an adult facility while programs like this simply aid in recovering the youth from the criminal lifestyle.

In the increasing debate of child criminals and the relation of this to media violence and its translation into real world violence, the child’s proneness towards recidivism, therefore exists within the concept of television or media violence. In point of fact the entire issue of juvenile delinquency hinges upon the fact of their exposure or overexposure to media violence and their applicability of this violence into the real world.

The ability of the offender to re-enter society not as a criminal but as a redemptive individual ready to become a working part of society may be only possible through the lessening of violence shown in the media. In the questions that arise from the concern over juvenile delinquency the recurring query is this:  Are children who commit crimes influenced in criminal behavior through television, or are they more likely to commit criminal acts because of psychology and sociology?

In the answering of this fundamental question, aspects of the child criminal are brought to the forefront of the debate, and these include, the relationship of aggressive behavior through television viewing (Torr 30), and the ‘psychology dealing with television and society (Torr 30). Also, the connection the juvenile has with school and community becomes prevalent when after school programs are a deterrent to crime.