04/06/05 — Lost innocence: Society cannot afford to miss indicators of teen violence

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Lost innocence: Society cannot afford to miss indicators of teen violence

It used to be that when a 14-year-old made a statement that sounded like a threat, the adults in charge dismissed his or her ramblings as teenage mischief or an unfortunate slip of the tongue.

We gave our young people more chances. We could afford to look the other way. There were not as many sinister consequences then.

Teenagers got the benefit of the doubt because their ramblings were not grounded in the horror of reality. No one had ever heard of a Columbine High School, and games involving killing and pretend weapons were just that, games.

But those days are gone.

The lost innocence of video games and the weakening of standards by which we judge what is fit for television and the movies have cost us as a society.

Our children are desensitized to violence. They grow up with warped views of how to handle conflict and resolve differences. They see fantasy worlds where guns shoot, but the heroes do not die.

They do not understand how a life can be destroyed in a moment of thoughtlessness or anger.

So, when schools react to teenage ramblings, alleged death plots and hit lists jotted into notebooks, they are doing what is prudent, what is responsible, what is necessary.

The response has to be swift and significant. The consequences of a missed clue, an underestimated risk or a slow reaction could be catastrophic.

Published in Editorials on April 6, 2005 11:20 AM