Social media key to rising youth violence, experts warn

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Social media has been singled out as a key issue amid rising teen violence in the capital.

Experts say disagreements are exacerbated when broadcast online, and the amount of violent content has helped normalize the aggression.

It comes as the fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old boy in Croydon, south London became the 29th teenage homicide in London in 2021, surpassing the 27 seen in 2017, and tying the previous record of 29 murders of adolescents in the capital. In 2008.

Junior Smart, founder of the St Giles Trust’s SOS project that helps distract young people from crime, said tech giants should be urged to invest their profits in areas ravaged by violence.

Junior Smart, founder of the St Giles Trust SOS Project which distracts young people from crime (St Giles Trust / PA)

He told the PA news agency: “Violence has normalized, especially over the past 10 years via social media.

“It’s a crazy situation here where if a person goes to a live event and starts streaming music live, they’ll be silenced and maybe a penalty, when someone can be online. to post violence and use the p-word or the n-word or a bunch of curse words. and nothing really happens.

“The reality is that social media platforms have a lot to answer for. In virtually every situation where we have seen violence occur, there has been some sort of connection with some online platform in some form or another.

“Why are these social media platforms not held to account? Why are we so afraid to ask really tough questions and why aren’t these social media platforms putting more money back into communities affected by violence? “

Jon Yates, executive director of the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF), said there are three factors driving the rise in violence: an increase in the number of vulnerable children, for example in care or excluded from school; increased pressure on services such as police, mental health and youth work; and social media fuels conflict.

Jon Yates, Executive Director of the Youth Endowment Fund (PA)
Jon Yates, Executive Director of the Youth Endowment Fund (PA)

He told PA: “We don’t fully know the impact of social media. But all the young people I talk to say that social media and the fact that something they say in passing is written, what could have been nothing becomes something.

The YEF, funded by the Home Office, was created to scientifically assess programs aimed at reducing youth violence and promoting the adoption of the most effective.

Its online toolkit, providing an at-a-glance guide to what works best, currently ranks cognitive behavioral therapy as very effective, along with targeted deterrence programs where young people see their needs for housing, training and employment satisfied as long as they remain on the right side of the law.

However, military-style boot camps for young people who have been convicted of a felony have proven to be actively harmful, as have prison visits to instill fear of the consequences of being arrested.

“This is not a one-time, one-year problem,” Yates said. “The actual number of young people who die tends to vary, but the number of seriously injured people has been increasing for several years, since 2013. In many cases, the difference between a serious injury and a death is a few millimeters.

“If we are serious about making a difference, the solution is obvious. We have to find what works best, and then we have to execute it.

The Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) has created an online toolkit to show what works to reduce youth violence (YEF / PA)
The Youth Endowment Fund has created an online toolkit to show what works to reduce youth violence (YEF / PA)

Domestic violence has long been recognized as an aggravating factor in young people who become involved in violence later in life, and new research suggests that it may also be linked to extremism or terrorism.

Mr Yates said: “For most of the young people in this country, violence is not at all normal, but there is a proportion whose lives are far too full of violence.

“It’s part of social media, but a lot of it is their day-to-day experience, having friends or friends of seriously injured friends.

“The most important thing we can do, especially for those of us who lead relatively safe lives, is learn more about what works to make a difference.

“We know that for a child witnessing domestic violence is a risk factor, it makes them more likely to be involved in violence.

“What we don’t know is what the best way to solve this problem is.”

Mr Smart, who himself was jailed for 12 years for a drug-related crime and is now a youth work expert studying for a doctorate, believes there must be a reduction in bureaucracy in the agencies that help young people.

“I’ve been to meetings and talked to people around the table, great organization, everyone is doing their best.

“I thought about it and said how much time have you spent with the young person or the client since the last meeting?

“And we’ve been in a meeting longer than they’ve spent with the client. How can this make sense? “

He says poverty is a key driver of violence, and a lack of trust among young people in those in authority.

“They’re talking about taking a public health approach, but if that was the case, we would immunize young people against violence, do you see that happening? This is absolutely not happening, ”he said.

“Why expect a young person to go to a police officer or a teacher when every experience he has heard of in the past or has had himself says ‘don’t trust this person’?

“Violence is an epidemic, but here’s the thing. Just like this virus, it is preventable.


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