One of the more interesting challenges as Teen Court manager for Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i is to recognize trends in the offenses committed by teens, and develop new methods to work with them in the hopes of avoiding repeat offenses.
As we all know, the Internet is a powerful and remarkable tool used to educate, entertain and appall the public. Because it offers so much, teenagers today may spend more time on the Internet than engaging in any other activity. Video-sharing Web sites such as YouTube have become wildly popular with teens. Instantly discovering news about their friends and what they’re up to is often the primary focus of their conversation, and the information spreads among them like wildfire.
Many of videos on such sites reveal aspects of teenage life — proud and funny moments, sporting events and friendly family gatherings make up much of the shared content. However, many of the videos also contain content that is offensive and humiliating. Even though YouTube states videos showing someone getting hurt, attacked or humiliated will be removed, millions of videos are posted everyday and the site cannot regulate them all.
Teenagers who commit various first-time misdemeanor offenses are referred to Teen Court. Assault is one of the more serious and frequently referred offenses. Because of the technology interface between cellular phones and the Internet, almost any spectator to a fight who has a cellular phone can videotape it, upload it to YouTube, and instantly millions of viewers can watch it take place just minutes after it occurred.
So, if you weren’t in the school courtyard to bear witness to the fight, no worries, you can watch it immediately after it took place or weeks later. The schoolyard bully now has what he or she believes is an audience of, literally, millions of potential fans.
If the recipient of the abuse should fight back, they are both arrested by the police officer whose job is to keep the peace.
What can be done about this new provocation to violence on school campuses? Is this really any different from other fights that take place at school?
Yes, it is different. Many of the kids who fight back to defend themselves express feeling “shamed” by the incident — first, by responding in kind; second, because everyone can watch the event; and, occasionally, a third type of shame occurs in that the victim is seriously bested in the fight. Attempts to remove these videos often result in fueling the bully’s arrogance.
These fights are different in another way, too. Parents who have watched these videos and witnessed their child’s abuse at the hands of a teenage bully have questioned their long-held doctrine of nonviolence. Some have expressed dismay and sorrow for not having taught their children to defend themselves. It is a sad day when parents are sorry for teaching their children nonviolence.
However, teaching our children to recognize and resolve their feelings of anger with creative and positive nonviolent techniques remains the most effective strategy to reduce aggressive behavior in teens. Coupled with their surrounding family members expressing empathy and patience, this is a very good beginning.
• Esther Solomon is the Teen Court manager for Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i Inc., 2959 Umi St., Lihu‘e, HI 96766
A support group of adults in our Kaua‘i community have “stepped into the corner” for our teens! Please e-mail your questions and concerns facing our youth and families today to Mary Navarro, executive director of Hale ‘Opio, at email@example.com.