Teen Violence Essay, Research Paper
American teens think violence and crime are serious national problems, yet most believe they are safe. Almost three-fourths of
U.S. teens are afraid of violent crime among their peers. For some, the fear is justified. But for most, the threat may be more
perception than reality.
In 1994, 74 percent of junior high and high school students said teenage violence and crime is a “major problem,” according to
a study of 502 students by Roper Starch Worldwide. And 53 percent rated violence in schools as a major problem.
Teens may be worrying more about violence at school and elsewhere, but the national statistics on crime are improving. The
violent-crime rate in the U.S. declined a slight 1.5 percent between 1992 and 1993, to 746.1 offenses per 100,000 population,
according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. When compiling violent-crime statistics for its annual Uniform Crime Reports,
the FBI counts reported incidences of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.
Three in ten teenagers say violence in their own school is a serious problem, and only 18 percent say violence is serious in their
neighborhoods, according to Roper. Teens in the South are slightly more likely than average to say violence in their school is a
serious problem, at 35 percent. Less than one-fourth of teens in the Northeast feel the same way, even though they are more
likely to live in urban areas.
Why is there a gap between national crime data and teenagers’ perceptions of crime? There are two factors at work, says
Everett Lee, a research scientist and professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Georgia in Athens. First, teenagers are
at greater risk of being victims of violence at school than on the street. “Like kills like,” Lee says. “Most young people aged 10
to early adulthood are killed by young people.” Teens are most likely to see other teens at school, he says.
Lee also believes that media coverage of crime-particularly violence in schools-has strongly influenced students’ opinions. “It’s
been drummed into their minds, with the enormous number of stories about killings in school and guns in school,” he says. In
reality, school killings are typically isolated incidents in high-crime areas. The result is rising paranoia among students who
attend some of the safest schools in America: those located in suburbs.
High school students are at greater risk of being both victims and perpetrators of murder than are younger teens. About 3,100
teens aged 15 to 19 were murdered in 1993, compared with fewer than 400 aged 10 to 14. And 18 percent of all murderers
were teens aged 15 to 19, compared with 1 percent aged 10 to 14.
Gang and drug-related violence has turned some urban neighborhoods into war zones for teens. Today, 13 percent of all
murder victims are under age 18. But in other areas, crime is more of a fear than a problem.