What a bizarre heading for New Year! I am aware of this but I am stuck with it. Here’s why.
I am one of the editors of the Informer but my son’s health emergency has meant I must care for him and his family. This has kept me in Brisbane for approaching 9 months. This article is based on Brisbane Courier Mail news (Dec 28, 22) but the issue it raises is universal.
The article refers to a knifing murder on Boxing Day (26 December). It was a home invasion in the early hours of the morning; a mother of two was knifed in the chest and her husband knifed in the back. The wife died almost immediately. The perpetrator was 17 years. He was supposed to be in a government funded ‘safe house’ because of previous home invasion and stabbing crimes he committed. The timing and nature of this tragic crime prompted the paper to make it their lead story. Behind it is increasing crime by teenagers across the state. This is what the paper says ‘MUST STOP NOW’.
I don’t believe this teen violence is confined to Queensland. It is a problem across the Western world - including New Zealand. My question is, who is going to stop it?
Is it up to the Police? Queensland police are armed and supported by all kinds of surveillance. Is it up to the courts and the jails? While I appreciate initiatives of government, I believe it is up to us. Every one of us can make, should make, some contribution to easing youthful anger and rage. This is my thought as we begin 2023.
Think of the world in which our teens are growing up. At least half come from Homs where the parents have separated (I would call it broken homes). My guess is the majority have no stable father and/or mother figure in their lives. And they are trapped by computer games. Throughout this Christmas holiday many of our young males are in their bedrooms, doors closed, watching video games most of which are violent, many projecting images horrible beyond an adult’s comprehension.
Who is to blame for this? Certainly not the teens or the children. We provided them with the devices made by the biggest companies in the world, and huge corporations design and produced the addictive games. Locking our teen males in their bedrooms with video games is big business – the biggest business in the entertainment industry. The highest grossing movie ever was ‘Avatar’. It grossed 2.8 billion. The video game, ‘Grand Theft Auto’ (GTA) has grossed over 6 billion. I am not blaming video games for teen lawlessness – but the least that can be said is that they give a skewed view of the world and relationships.
But what do I mean when I say that each of us can do something to help teens defuse, relax and get a more balanced view on life?
I would never put myself forward as an example of how we should live but I have had some success with teenage boys. It has nothing to do with advice - even though I tried this route more than once. I think it has something to do with being ‘there’ for them, listening to them when they have something to say. I read in The Informer of the young people wanting and training to be firefighters, life guards, coastguards. It makes my heart sing. Its not common and it’s not the majority.
Being in the church I had some contact with teen boys who just turned up. When this was on a Sunday, they didn’t come into the service or, if they did, it was for five minutes. They just hung around in our spacious entrance hall and lounge. They would get into trouble with the old and bold and correct older men and women. “Ask them to leave or come inside like the rest of us. If not, at least tell them to be quiet, ” I was told on a number of occasions. These young males annoyed people by sleeping on the couches, using their phones, bouncing table tennis balls and playing pianos – vigorously. I told the boys of the complaints and asked them to stop what they were doing. Mostly they did but shortly after, particularly when the service was over, started again. I refused to ask them to leave.
Now, years later, two of them are 21 and the others nearing adulthood. They have calmed down quite a bit and even listen sometimes. Their skills in theoretical physics, mathematics, and music have blossomed, many to a professional level. I think they could be New Zealand leaders in their fields - and maybe beyond. What I am saying here is this. Value every contact you have with teens. Don’t expect them to listen to you or even respect you. Just be there for them - neither angry nor judgmental. We would be the same as them if we were raised in the pressure cooker, that is their world.
This is all I know. I believe attitudes like this will make a positive difference to some of them at least. Happy New Year!
Caption: The world headquarters of Nintendo - major maker of video game consoles. Doesn’t look like it was designed by a teenager.