Are teens becoming more violent?

By Doug Walker - bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Last week was filled with disturbing images: Two south Mississippi teens, in Jackson and George counties, stood trial in separate murder cases. One involved a man who was gunned down after stopping to ask for directions. The victims in the other case included a man and a pregnant woman.

Recent studies show that young teens are becoming ever more violent, often with deadly consequences.

Dr. William Gasparrini has been a practicing psychologist for decades, and has seen the studies.

"There is evidence that the rate of violence among teenagers has increased," Dr. Gasparrini said. "And when they compare the rates for instance between Canada and the United States, they find the rate is three times higher in the U.S."

So what turns your typical teenager into a violent killer? Gasparrini has a theory.

"Greater fame and notoriety for the perpetrator of the violence which can encourage others to emulate that," Gasparrini said. "They've seen it in video games, they've seen it in TV shows, far more violent TV programs than there were in the past, even in cartoons."

In a 33 year police career, Biloxi Deputy Police Chief Rodney McGilvary has seen it all. He thinks the rise in teen violence is tied to the home.

"Nowadays, Mom and Dad both have to work, leaving the young folks at home having to kind of fend for themselves," McGilvary said. "I would think that has something to do with it."

But the answer to the escalating violence may be found in our schools, according to McGilvary.

"With our GREAT program, with our DARE program that brings our law enforcement folks into the school setting with the young folks to give them some different ideas and different directions."

Both men agree though that an answer must be found soon, to prevent courtroom scenes like last week's from becoming all too common.

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