The face of the criminal is constantly changing and recently it is becoming more and more younger. The percentage of juvenile crime skyrocketed in the past 20 years and the question of young members of society being treated like adults in the matter of law is a hot topic for debate. Adolescents should not be treated like adults for they are not fully mature, aren’t in control of their environments and some cannot deal with the psychological, social and emotional feelings that come with growing up which sometimes result in destruction and violence.
It is believed that humans are constantly learning and that, we, as a race, build our knowledge regularly. As a child or teen, humans are still developing their brain and are always soaking in information. In this time and age, violence and rage is a common part of our surroundings, be it at school or, for some, at home. The shows and movies we watch and the books we read always have some sort of violent component to it. Since humans absorb information at an incredible rate, as children and teens, the violence in the entertainment has been hard coded into our personalities and nature. When we see our favourite action heroes and characters fighting and committing harmful acts to others, we wish to copy them and be like them in every way, therefore “acting out”. For example the 8-year-old boy, who shot and killed his elderly caregiver, intentionally, after playing a violent video game. The game he played encouraged violence and awarded points for hurting others. This proves that minds of the young are impressionable. A human’s brain is not developed till the age of 25 and every violent act we see, read and witness, is forever imprinted in our brains.
A huge debate that has been mystifying scientists for decades is the fight between nature and nurture. Some believe the way humans act is based on the way they are brought up while others believe that the personality traits and habits we have are genetically coded into our minds. Most scientists believe that the environment that a child is developed in has a huge part in the way their personalities are shaped. Many different studies show that if a child is abused, the chance of an individual committing a violent crime increases by 38% and committing any crime as a juvenile increases by 53%. This means that as a child, being abused by family or friends, increases the chance of crimes in the future. Even though it is said that violence is not the way to express feelings or emotions, the information we choose to surround ourselves with is contradictory. Abuse can create many problems in our psychological and social personalities, causing a buildup of frustration. Since some home lives aren’t safe places to talk and open up, this buildup is the source of an out lash, which sometimes hurts the person more than others. As a juvenile, dealing with the stresses of our environment is tough without the proper support and direction, allowing the discontentment to fester and finally burst out in a violent way.
As humans grow up they experience psychological, social and emotional pressure from their peers and families. How they deal with these different types of environmental stressors shapes them as people. Bullied in school, peer and familial pressure all contribute to the buildup of tension, which in some cases, explodes in the form of violence. High school students nowadays suffer the same amount of anxiety as a psychiatric patient in the 1950s and since social lives are only a part of a human’s overall personalities, as you can imagine, the buildup of everything is too much for some people to handle. Pressure from families, what career path we wish to pursue and what college we want to go to, causes kids to succumb to the expectations and the need to be better than everyone around them, be it their siblings or friends. The combination of friends and family together applying all sorts of pressures on gullible minds leads to increase of tension finally leading to an outbreak.
The rate of juvenile crimes have decreased substantially, a drastic change from 20 years ago when the juveniles were so out of hand that the Legislative Assembly had no choice but to allow the courts to try the young as adults. Now, after the 54% decrease in crime committed by the younger members of society, countries all over the world are thinking of reducing sentences for minors. Since juveniles have no control over the environment they are brought up in, their brains aren’t fully developed and the expectations they face are constantly building up the stress in their lives, the youth lash out in violent ways. No one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, especially in their youth, and since the child offenders do not know the consequences of their crime, it seems unfair to sentence them like someone who knows exactly what their crime has caused. Ruining a life, a potential life, for something they very well did not know and were not in control of, is a waste of purpose.