FT. LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – The horrifying violence that led teens to attack one of their own, beating 15-year-old Seath Jackson, shooting him, and then burning him in a fire pit has parents wondering about the demons their own children face, and how it could put them at risk.
“Stuff is bottled up and they take it out on the wrong person,” said a student.
“They see things they don’t have in their lives and they’ll do what they can to get it.”
In the Ocala murder of Jackson, 5 people between the ages of 15 and 20 were arrested. The question most are asking is why teenagers resort to extreme violence against other teenagers? The second biggest question is how parents can know if their team is at risk of being a target, or being an aggressor
“The best predictor of future violence is past violence, so its a risk factor they need help, ” said Dr. Lisa Sapanaro, a child psychologist who counsels teenagers on violence and bullying.
She believes the reasons for such extreme violence go beyond poverty.
“Having a family with violence makes violence more likely,” she said, “and being around teenagers who use violence, we start to look at our peers.”
She also believes the explosion of mass media can have an effect, a claim that can be controversial.
“I don’t think we can rule out violent TV and videos,” she said. “Studies have shown than watching these you are more likely to do something violent that someone who doesn’t.”
South Florida has seen the effect of teen violence and bullying, from the brutal beating of Josie Lou Ratley at the hands of a student who was upset with a text message, to the burning of Michael Brewer, who was allegedly targeted by other teens in a dispute over a bicycle.
At Coral Gables High, 17 year old Juan Carlos Rivera was stabbed to death, the victim of another teen’s anger over his attention to a girl.
Schools have recognized the problem, both from the standpoint of the aggressor and victim, knowing that being a victim can lead teens to act out themselves.
“We have a bully box where you can report it,” said high school junior Jenna Broyles. She said it works.
“There have been instances where its reported and the guidance counselor helps,” she said.
Anti-bullying programs can also help give teens the tools to make them less likely to be targets.
“Teaching confidence and eye contact are some of the basics in overcoming bullying,” Dr. Sapanaro said.
Experts say parents can teach non-violence, and encourage their kids not to tease, bully or gossip about other children.
Most important, Experts say, is to tell them if someone they know is being violent, they should report it to someone they trust.