Juvenile delinquency seems to be growing in this country; at least the media's handling of it seems to be increasing. This paper will provide research into violence in the various forms of media and how it affects juvenile delinquency. Studies indicate violence in the media can contribute to violence in young people. They also indicate that there are many instances of violence in the media every day. Another issue facing young people is human trafficking. Studies show it is on the rise around the world, and more needs to be done to deter and outlaw the practice.
The purpose of this paper is to introduce, discuss, and analyze the topic of criminal justice. Specifically it will discuss the impact that media (i.e., television, video games, and music) has on delinquency, and how to reduce the incidence of the human trafficking of children. It seems the media is always filled with stories of juvenile violence in our society. Just this week, a story on the Internet told of a 15-year-old girl who killed her 9-year-old neighbor just to "see what it felt like" (Katz, 2009). Media definitely affects the way the people view teenaged violence, but research shows that other media, like video games and music, help fuel teenage violence.
Every time you turn on the television news or pick up a newspaper, it seems that the media is talking about teenage violence, and juvenile delinquency, from gang warfare to young people killing each other. One lawyer notes, "The media thus devote a disproportionate share of their news coverage to crime and delinquency, particularly on television, and most especially at the local level. The crime coverage also is inordinately concentrated on crimes of violence" (Shepherd, Jr., 2009). This affects how the public views teen violence and teens in general, and it affects how people want to see teens punished for their actions, as well. More teens are facing punishment as adults rather than teens, and the courts are being tougher on teens in a reaction to public opinion (Shepherd, Jr., 2009).
Another writer reviews a book on juvenile delinquency, citing its causes. He writes, "In addition to drawing readers' attention to the empirical research of the more prominent causal factors of delinquency, Agnew explores some of the less notable causal factors including employment, mass media, religion, and guns" (Turner, 2006). Mass media has become increasingly violent in the past few decades, and that violence has become more acceptable to society. Video games, films, music, and even TV news has become much more bloody and violent, and people seem almost immune to it at times. A group of authors note, "Based on the Child Trends Data Bank, the second leading cause of death for 15-to 19-year-olds is homicide. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over three fourths of homicides involving 10- to 24-year-olds involved a firearm in 2001" (Smith et al., 2004). These are troubling statistics, and this group of authors goes on to prove that gun violence on television and video games leads to gun violence in many teens. They continue, "Depictions of guns on screen may serve as a retrieval cue to activate semantically related concepts of aggression or hostility in memory" (Smith et al., 2004). They also found aggression is even stronger when the viewer identifies with the person committing the violence. They note, "Indeed, a meta-analysis of 217 studies reveals that the impact of media violence on aggression is stronger (d = 1.56) when viewers identify with the aggressor" (Smith et al., 2004). Their studies on television and video game violence showed that guns in these games did increase aggression in many children, which means that Americans may have to rethink their overall acceptance of violence and violent behavior in the media.
Many studies have shown that violence in video games, television, and music helps create young people who are more violent and accepting of violence. They imitate the violence they see reproduced in the media. Three writers note, "The distal cause is attributed to 'learning.' Humans would not use 'aggressive and violent behaviors' if they had not learned to do so. The mechanism by which they learn, according to the Academy of Sciences report, is imitation" (Lahey, Moffitt, & Caspi, 2003, p. 191). The Smith studies also show that the violent teens exposed to guns in video games and on television are imitating behavior they have seen glamorized on the screen. That is another problem with violence in the media. It often glamorizes violence and violent acts, especially in film and video games, making it more attractive to teens who want to imitate their heroes and "off" the bad guys.
However, other studies show that genetics can also be a major factor in who will turn out to be a juvenile delinquent. The three writers note, "Our model suggests that each of the components of anti-social propensity is influenced by a distinct set of genes, which indirectly influence the development of conduct problems through the four components of antisocial propensity" (Lahey, Moffitt, & Caspi, 2003, p. 98). This genetic predisposition to violence rules out the learning theory for at least some violent teens, they would be violent without any media influence, but for many others, the media only adds to their ability to learn and imitate violent behaviors.
Another problem facing young people is the global rise in the human trafficking of children. Most countries outlaw human trafficking, and especially the trafficking of children, but the world has seen an increase in human trafficking of all kinds since the 1990s. Human trafficking is the kidnap, coercion, or force that takes a man, woman, or child away from their home, moves them to another location, and forces them to work. It is often associated with sex crimes, but forced labor is also common. In fact, the numbers are staggering. Another writer says that there are at least 600,000 to 800,000 international cases each year, and that 80% of the victims are women, and 50% are children (Destefano, 2007, p. 112). Another group of writers notes that much of the activity is mob related. They state, "Criminal elements are obviously behind much human trafficking. However, it is organized crime, combined with corrupt officials and governments, that has contributed to the significant growth of this problem on a global scale" (Jones, Engstrom, Hilliard & Diaz, 2007). That so many of the victims of this crime are children is especially disturbing.
Surprisingly, human trafficking occurs right here in the United States, as well as many foreign countries. The U.S. Department of Education notes, "According to U.S. government estimates, thousands of men, women, and children are trafficked to the United States for the purposes of sexual and labor exploitation" (Editors, 2009). They continue that schools are particularly vulnerable. They continue, "Sex traffickers target children because of their vulnerability and gullibility, as well as the market demand for young victims" (Editors, 2009). In fact, human trafficking has become so prevalent there is actually a national Human Trafficking hot line to call if someone suspects human trafficking is going on. Another writer notes, "Instead, advocates argued that there was a class of domestic trafficking victims: U.S. citizens and residents who traveled inside national borders as forced laborers-invariably, young people and children used for sex" (Destefano, 2007, p. 12). Young people from divorced homes, or who do not live with their parents are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, but traffickers target children in a variety of ways, from texting or online chatting, to targeting friends and hanging out at shopping malls.
One way to deter the trafficking of children is to increase the penalties and increase the attempts to find trafficking victims. Often, they are locked away in brothels or other locations, with no chance of escape. However, studies have found that areas where legalized prostitution is available are more attractive to traffickers, and so making prostitution illegal is another way to help deter the practice (Destefano, 2007, p. 116). Yet another way to help deter it is to education children, especially the most vulnerable, in the dangers of human trafficking. They should know not to talk to strangers, or adults in general, and not to befriend strangers online, at the mall, or even strangers that say they are "friends" of someone they know. These are all ploys they should avoid, and really educating children on what to look out for is another way to help deter the practice and keep children safe.
Actively prosecuting traffickers and making the penalties extremely harsh is another way to stamp out the practice. Going after organized crime and breaking up corruption in other countries is also a way to manage and eventually eliminate the problem. Law enforcement is becoming more aware of this problem, and trying to find answers to it, but it is obviously a major problem that must be addressed, especially as it relates to children. Children should not be involved in any kind of trafficking, period.
Personally, both of these topics are important and…