School shootings are arguably the evilest act of cruelty a human being can inflict on the world. They rob us of our children in a place where they should have been safe. Adolescents do not understand the pain and suffering as well as irreparable damage they deal when they engage in shooting classmates in school. The teenage brain can be partially to blame, as it is so underdeveloped that it cannot even rationalize though properly. Another blame could be medications and the effects they have on the brain. This is a commonly held belief that might shed light on this situation. Some also believe that the glorification of violence in movies and video games has a large affect as well. These shootings need to stop, however, and we must first understand teenagers before we attempt to solve their violent, sometimes fatal ways.
teenage mind is a complex and often misunderstood thing. It is filled with
hormones and most of the time is only focused on getting through adolescence. Neurons
are enlarged in the teenage brain to the extent that they are more easily
capable of learning new things than adults are. Because of this, the teen brain
is also more susceptible to stressors than the adult brain.
Another factor to take into consideration when discussing
the teenage brain is the development of the cortex. It’s shown in teenagers to
be one of the last parts of the brain to develop, and this is very important as
the cortex is sort of the decision maker of the brain.
of the cortex lies the right supramarginal gyrus, which would also still be
developing in the teenage brain. The right supramarginal gyrus is responsible
for empathy in human beings, and an underdeveloped one could be the reason that
some teenagers can take a life or multiple lives when the idea sounds so
heinous to an adult.
Another part of the brain developing during adolescents
is the cerebellum. The cerebellum does help with understanding the social ques
around you as well as other cognitive processes.
Male and female brains are also developing at different
rates and may explain why there is an absurd amount of male school shooters
compared to females. Since the year 1970, out of 1,300 school shootings, only
fifty-seven of them were female.
The last major difference that teenagers struggle more to
achieve than their adult counter-part is sleep. Teenagers often do not get the
sleep they require because once puberty strikes, melatonin production in the
teen brain changes until it’s being produced later in the night.
It’s no secret that psychotropic medications are being used throughout the country to treat a variety of issues, mostly dealing with the brain and behavioral issues. Everything from depression to post traumatic stress disorder is being medicated and our adolescents are being affected by this medicinal wave as well.
the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Center
for Disease Control and the National Center for Health Statistics, adolescents
between the ages of twelve and seventeen were asked if they had taken any
prescribed medication by a doctor or dentist and if an answer of “yes” was
obtained, the exact product name was given. The data shows that from 1988 –
2010 there was an across-the-board seven times increase in all psychotropic use.
Furthermore, when looking at just ADHD medication increases from 1988 – 2010, use
multiplied by sixteen for males and twenty-eight for females. When looking at
anti-depressant medication use, during the same timespan use increased four
times for males and nine times for females.
According to a study published in Duke Today,
Duke researchers reported on their study of 156 older patients diagnosed with
major depression which, to their surprise, found that after 16 weeks, patients
who exercised showed statistically significant and comparable improvement
relative to those who took anti-depression medication, or those who took the
medication and exercised.”
This study was conducted using older patients, but if the teenage brain needs exercise and a healthy energy outlet, then why wouldn’t exercise ease the symptoms of depression as well? In a follow-up study to the above mentioned, they also found that exercise greatly decreased the risk of depression coming back as well.
This approach could absolutely work for ADHD as well, which is the most medicated disorder in adolescents. Most ADHD medications push dopamine into the brain as it enables better concentration on tasks. Exercise does the exact same thing as well as expend energy reserves that are pretty much constantly overflowing. As a dog trainer, the first thing I will do before beginning any session is to expend the animal’s energy. Once the energy is expended to a more tolerable amount, the training can actually begin. This makes the dogs more attentive and more likely to grasp concepts being taught to them. Also, almost all of the behavioral problems that I am approached to help correct are actually just an overflow of energy. Once the client starts taking the dog for daily exercise, most, if not all, of the problems seem to clear up and I’m regarded as a miracle worker when in reality, I just worked the animal out. I take my children to the park every single day and make sure they are constantly active when we are there. I notice certain issues that come up when they don’t get their daily exercise.
is science behind my claims, as board certified psychiatrist, Michael Lara,
MD., explains in his article, The
Exercise Prescription, “For a very small handful of people with ADHD,
exercise may serve as a viable replacement for prescription medications. For
most, however, it is complementary to their treatment—something you or your
child should absolutely do, along with taking meds, to help increase attention
and improve mood.”
is all very interesting, but are medications really the cause of mass
shootings? While medications have been on the rise, for every demographic,
violence has actually been on the decline. From 1991 through 2010, there was a
40% decrease in homicide rates for males between the ages of ten and
twenty-four, and a 51% decrease in homicide rates for females in the same age
In a conversation with the Florida Attorney General, Pam Bondi, Donald Trump stated that:
hearing more and more people seeing the level of violence in video games is
really shaping young people’s thoughts. And then you go the further step, and
that’s the movies. You see these movies, and they’re so violent a kid is able
to see the movie if sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved, and maybe we
need to put a rating system for that. The fact is that you are having movies
come out, that are so violent, with the killing and everything else, that maybe
that's another thing we need to discuss."
But isn’t this just something that politicians (and real estate moguls, apparently), have
been saying for decades? Since
Columbine, I remember seeing reports about video games escalating the idea that
they are somehow the reason that children are increasingly more violent than
past generations. After the Columbine massacre, the parents of the slain
victims even sued a multitude of video game companies citing that without the
video games Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold “…these murders and this massacre
never would have occurred.”
In a study conducted by researchers at the University of
York in January of 2018 they found that video games did not “prime” the player
therefore not increasing aggressive tendencies. Priming is the term used for
the increasing realism in video games “priming” the player to carry out
specific actions in real life. The study goes on to highlight that the
different methods used to conduct the research added realistic models in video
games and tested the players inclination toward violence at the end.
In another study conducted by a psychologist, Christopher
Ferguson, at Stetson University in Florida found that although movie violence
in the 1950’s correlated a rise in real-world violence, real-world violence
dropped in the decades to come even as movies became increasingly more
realistic and violent. With the advent of video games, measurements of youth
exposure to violent video games were taken and compared to youth homicide rates
from 1994 – 2004. The study actually showed a decrease in youth homicide directly
coinciding with an increase in video game use in the twelve to seventeen age
range. The study goes on to refute most previous studies on the links between
violent video game use and violent behavior by questioning the methods of the
On the other spectrum, the American Psychological
Association took a look at over 100 studies posted from 2005 – 2013 and found
definitive proof that video games “…can increase aggressive behavior and
thoughts, while lessening empathy and sensitivity toward aggression,” but also
that “…although some studies suggested links to criminal violence and
neurological changes, there wasn’t enough evidence to determine a connection.”
“Samaria shall bear her guilt, because she has rebelled against her God; they shall fall by the sword, their little ones shall be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women ripped open.” (Hosea 13:16, New Revised Standard Version) This is a quote from the Cristian bible detailing the orders to slaughter the young in the ancient city of Samaria, as well as rip the babies from the wombs of the mothers.
“Then he said to them, "This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.' "The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. Then Moses said, "You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day."(Exodus 32:27-29, New International Version)
This quote is instructing the mass killing of his own people in order to be blessed by god. “Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.' " … He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword.” (1 Samuel 15:3-8) But in the fairness of being impartial to the violence of both major religions, here is a quote from Islam: “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore, strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them,” (Quran 8:12) as well as, “And when we wish to destroy a town, we send our commandment to the people of it who lead easy lives, but they transgress therein; thus the word proves true against it, so we destroy it with utter destruction." (Quran 17:16) These acts of violence are not only read by our youth, but they are worshiped, they are taught, and they are believed. If video games called for the direct killing of innocents, they would have been banned after Pearl High School or Columbine High School but (most) religions have always been, and will always be the most forced and violent institutions our youth our exposed and encouraged to participate in. So, if school shootings are not based on an increase in sensitized violence, as violence can be found anywhere and in pretty much any form of entertainment since the dawn of humanity, where are these adolescent mass murderers being born from?
internet is a complex and underappreciated technological marvel. In just the
last thirty years alone the internet has revolutionized sociological
interaction, but is it healthy? According to studies done by the Cyberbullying
Research Center, 27.9% of teens had been the victims of cyberbullying at some
time in the past.
shooters are not always the bullied, as the data suggests, which is contrary to
the belief held directly after Columbine. According to Dr. Peter Langman, who
was cited previously for another article, school shooters rarely target bullies
at all. In fact, “…approximately 54% of the perpetrators harassed, intimidated,
threatened, or assaulted people prior to their attacks.”
The capability for teenagers to be violent is not a new trend. When I was eighteen-years-old I was behind a machine-gun in a desert far away from home causing violence. My great-grandfather joined the U.S. Army at the age of fourteen only sixty years ago and fought Nazi’s France. My belief, after getting out of the Army, is that the entire “war system” preys on teenagers in order to keep their ranks filled. I had the option to go back to Afghanistan as a K9 Handler under a contracting agency. The pay was more then I’d have made throughout my entire time at Arizona State University using the GI Bill and it sounded almost to good to be true. I never went, as, after thinking on it, I have a life to lead now and I’m not eighteen anymore. This is why the war system preys on teenagers and needs them to function. This isn’t new and thankfully we have laws to protect against fourteen-year-olds joining the military as my great-grandfather had to. The days of teenagers being able to study all day and relax at home afterwards was only reserved for the wealthy. The very notion of “public school” is still a completely new concept when considering civilization has been established for thousands of years. Teenagers do not have to pick up a sword and stab a man to death on a battlefield anymore. Perhaps the enhanced aggression that the adolescent brain struggles with was an evolutionary by-product that allowed the survival of the species.
in-flux of testosterone into the teenage brain is well known, and the reasoning
is for the brain to “re-wire” itself into an adult brain. If the brain isn’t
fully developed until twenty-five, people under this age must have higher
testosterone levels than people over twenty-five. This is dependent on the
individual, of-course, but it could offer insight as to why there is so many
school shootings taking place. Teenagers are already having a difficult time
controlling their emotions without adding everything else. The cyber-bullying,
the medications and SSRI’s, the glorification of violence since the dawn of
time, and now the internet as a medium to broadcast themselves are all to
blame. Everything that is, is here to stay, however, and it’s up to each
individual parent to console and talk to their adolescents and understand that their
brain is not functioning the way the adult brain does and that teenagers have
been causing violence for thousands of years. The public-school system is only
around two-hundred years old and before it, teenagers were hunting and warring.
Some of the blame has to lie on the parent’s for failing to see that their
teenager was on the brink of committing something evil. If we can catch
teenagers in time, before they act, we can stop these shootings from ever
happening in the first place.
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