Criminalizing Youth

The media's portrayal of teens within the last ten years has been one of the "troubled", over-sexed, under-supervised, violent video game addicted little robots who do whatever musicians (be it rock or rap) tell them to. And the solution is to install Orwellian surveilance systems, metal detectors and a host of other privacy invading measures. Of course, nothing (both the "problems" and the so-called "solutions") could be further from the truth.

Sex, violence, and the teenage myth

"Teenage sex" is but one of the media's myths about teens. The U.S. Public Health Service reports that 71 percent of all teen parents have adult partners over 20. And yet this is commonly refered to as "kids having kids". But when a teenager is a prostitute with adult customers, it is called "teen prostitution". California and U.S. Vital Statistics report that men over the age of 20 cause 5 times as many births among junior high school girls than boys their own age. They also report that men over the age of 20 cause 2.5 times more births among high school girls than high school boys do. Looking at the pictures accompanying the articles about "teen sex" and the baseless rhetoric of "kids having kids", you'd think that many males under the age of 20 are fathers. The way the "evidence" is presented, adult males are completely innocent, and therefore free from responsibility; but the opposite is true. This attitude reinforces the sexism of our society; that females who are promiscuous are "sluts" and are "kids having kids", but males are completely free of accountability.

Who's to blame for "teen sex"? Rappers, metalheads, Hollywood and television. It's never the responsiblity of the benign caring adults, who cause the majority of teen pregnancies. Those lovable "get tough" professionals and "loving" parents are not at all to blame. And of course, it's not the media's fault that peoples' attentions were pointed at all the superficial factors within a teens life, instead of real problems like abuse, racism and poverty.

Another one of the media's lies: "teen violence". Almost all the articles pertaining to the issue of "teen violence", end up blaming or pointing the finger at music, video games, non-conformist lifestyles and opinions, television shows and movies. The California Department of Justice found that 83 percent of murdered children, half murdered teens and 85 percent of murdered adults are slain by adults over 20 in a report issued 8/13/93. F.B.I. reports show that people Bill Clinton's age (47) are twice as likely to commit murder than 13-year-olds. After Columbine, Bill Clinton said that "We need to teach our children... to resolve conflicts with words, not weapons" as he rained death and destruction on Serb civilians.

Again, the media blames the usual suspects; music, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. They continually ignore things like what the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect found in its report in 5/93; that at least 350,000 children and teens are confirmed victims of sexual and violent abuses every year by adults whose average age is 32. Comparisons of these figures with crime reports show that for every violent and sexual abuse committed by a youth under 18, there are three times as many of the same crimes committed by adults against children and teens. The Rape in America report found that 12,000,000 American women have been raped; of these, 62 percent were raped before the age of 18. Over 5,000,000 children and teenagers victimized every year have the average age of ten years old; their rapists' average age was 27. Minnesota State Prison and the Massachusetts Treatment Center for Sexually Dangerous Persons' studies show that 60 to 90 percent of all intmates--and nearly all on death row-- were abused as children. Poverty among the young people and young families rose 50 percent from 1973 to 1991 according to the U.S. Census Bureau and Poverty in the United States. A truth that prison wardens and juvenile court judges have known for a long time is that "If children are not protected from their abusers, then the public will one day have to be protected from the children." The L.A. Times did a survey (8/25/85) which indicated that one fifth of all Americans are sexually abused as children.

Solutions for Non-existant Problems

Yet the mainstream corprate media continue to blare: "Who are our children? One day they are innocent. The next, they may try to blow your head off" (L.A. Times, 12/9/93). In article after article, editorial after editorial, the usual suspects are rounded up. "It's those violent movies. It's Marilyn Manson. It's that awful game Doom." The usual solutions to the problem are proposed; "We need God back in the schools. We need metal detectors in schools. Oppression is the answer! We abused our kids, so let's punish them for it. Those little mongrels deserve it!"

Both "liberals" and "conservatives" base arguments on the two myths of "teen" violence, and "teen" pregnancy. Conservatives want abstinence education (U.S.A. Today, 11/19/91), whereas liberals favor condom handouts at schools. Conservatives want metal detectors in schools and other privacy violating measures taken, and the liberals are in tacit agreement. If you are not against something, you are doing nothing to stop whatever that something is from happening. Both arguments falsely assume that: 1. teens are the problem, not the adults who abuse them and that 2. eliminating freedom will somehow make things safer. Neither of these arguments are true.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Vital Statistics of the United States show that white adults are twice as likely to commit suicide as black adults, and white teens are twice as likely to commit suicide as black teens. From 1940 to 1990, unwed birth rates among rose 4.7 times among teenage women and 4.6 times among adult women. The F.B.I.'s 1992 Uniform Crime Reports show that men commit 88 percent of all adult violent crime and boys commit 88 percent of all juvenile violent crime. And yet, the A.M.A. (American Medical Association) delcares "Our teenagers have lost their way." But they don't mention the similarities in behavior between juveniles and adults! Why is that?

Who buys newspapers and magazines with sensational and biased opinions? Adults. Who makes up the majority of the population? Adults. Who makes up a majority of the workforce? Adults. Who can vote? By now I shouldn't have to say. Teens are stereotyped as violent, horny and immoral. When teens are blamed for the problems, adults are completely unresponsible for teen behavior. The media creates the "teen world" with magazines like Seventeen, Teen and a host of others. They convince teens which music is appropriate, which behaviors are appropriate, even which stereotypes are appropriate. Yet when violence occurs, articles blame entertainment mediums and guns for these problems, rather than going to the roots of the problmes like racism, poverty and child abuse.

Stable violence rates, rapidly declining birth rates and drug deaths among teenagers were reversed following the media's feeding frenzy on the "War on Drugs". Once the government and the media began focusing on these "problems", they got worse. Yet, no newspaper or magazine will point this out.

Crime and Punishment

Teens serve about 60 percent more time than adults for the SAME CRIMES! Politicians who want to capitalize on the media's lies about teenagers have adopted a new phrase: "If you're old enough to do the crime, you're old enough to do the time." They want kids to be tried as adults and sentenced as adults! F*ck that! You can try me as an adult but only if I have the legal right to: drink alcohol, smoke cigarrettes, purchase pornography, drive, engage in sex and vote. That's what adults do, so why not the young 'uns? Can you imagine being thirteen or fourteen and serving time with violent criminals who are twice your age and size? How would it feel to drop the soap? If a teenager has murdered or raped someone, that shows how screwed up they are! They need serious therapy. When I say this, people whine "what about justice?" In that context, justice is just a nice way of saying "revenge". The United States is only one of two countries (the other being Somalia) who haven't signed the U.N.'s Convention on the Rights of a Child!!!! 191 sovereign nations have agreed to guarantee the same range of human rights that adults have to children; but NNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOO, the U.S. does not. Great country, huh?

Prescriptions for Prosac and similar drugs have skyrocketed among teens, even though their effects on minors have never been studied (therefore, no one knows if they are safe). It is reported that it effects brain growth and development, but no study has been done to prove or disprove this sketchy information. Metal detectors, fences, video cameras, armed guards and other repressive measures have been taken to punish all the youth for the crimes of a tiny minority. If these repressive measures were applied to racial groups, the outcries would be of racism, inequality and injustice. When applied to the youth, it is either o.k. or very necessary for the "safety of our schools." Despite metal detectors, people within my school district have been able to sneak weapons into schools. Putting police officers and repressive civil rights depriving procedures in schools is wrong. People argue "Well, if you have nothing to hide, what are you afraid of?" What if the police bust down your door in 2 or 3 in the morning, rummage through all your possesions and leave? If "you have nothing to hide, what are you afraid of?"

Diverting Attention

Looking at all those figures I presented above, you may be wondering "why would the media pick teens as scapegoats?" The media is pretty unobjective and unfair as I have already demonstrated, and those who don't have a voice (teens) will be stereotyped and eventually repressed. They pick up and transmit whatever politicians say, and then they'll write editorials and articles within the bounds of the corprate media. If adults were presented with those facts mentioned above, they would be seriously be forced to look at their behaviors and their lifestyles, not to mention other people's behaviors and lifestyles. By presenting teen stereotypes and misleading the public with terms like "kids having kids" and "teen" violence, the answers to hyped up problems are going to be f*cked up. Teen behavior cannot seriously be discussed without looking at adult behavior; yet the media continues to isolate teenagers.

Teenage Scapegoats = Big Profits!

Who profits from teen scapegoats? Big business. I've already discussed who buys those stoopid articles about "teen" violence, and "kids having kids". Who is put on medication for "aberrant and abnormal" behavior? Teens. In the U.S., Ritalin is the most commonly drug used to treat children's behavioral problems. Ritalin is treated as a fix-it-all solution for behavioral problems that both children and teens have. Instead of doing a serious in depth anyalysis of each individual's case, Ritalin will fix whatever problems they have. Many teens go through depressed stages, but many of them are forced to get on Ritalin or whatever because there's "someting wrong with them". Those drugs can be used to help people, but hailing them as a cure-all is wrong. Big business benefits from drugs sales. According to a critical political weekly called Insight on News, the five murderers involved in the school shootings had been diagnosed as hyperactive or depressed and put on Ritalin or Prosac. In fact, 10 to 12 percent of all boys in America are on either Prosac or Ritalin. Metal detectors, fences and surveillance systems cost money. That money goes to large corporations; and most of those corporations are directly involved with the prison-industrial complex. They are expanding their markets into the educational system. I'm sure business picked up greatly after the Columbine massacre. When Bill Clinton signed the assualt rifle ban, gun sales picked up dramamtically. People were curious to own what the government didn't want them to.

Teen scapegoats generate billions of dollars for Big Business. Do teens benefit from the wealth? Of course not. We continue to be stereotyped and repressed because that's what generates those profits. 1