Recently a Class I student had injured his right eye severely after a fight with a classmate. He may have to undergo retinal transplant surgery. This violent incident has again shifted the focus on increase in the rate of juvenile crimes in the city. Increasing violence among teenagers is becoming an inalienable problem. Escalating aggression among the new generation is extremely harmful to the society as a whole, Dr Samir H. Dalwai spoke on find out the reasons behind this trend. Dr Dalwai is a developmental and behavioural paediatrician and is the recipient of Rajiv Gandhi Manav Sewa Award for service to children by the Government of India.
What are the reasons for rise in crimes committed by children?
There are three reasons for it: i) Unrestricted, unsupervised exposure to media, especially violent sadistic animation and destructive games and little time or inclination left for real life experiences, ii) desire to achieve and acquire whatever one wants (‘instant gratification’) without any regards to ethics, morals or others’ feelings and iii) lack of appropriate role models that would help regulate analytical processes.
What are the measures required to be taken at the State-level?
Respect for the law starts at home. Parents should be made aware (by the State if needed) to implement an atmosphere that respects honesty and prudence – thereby teaching the child to respect law and be happy within the available means. Schools can be instructed by the State government to conduct well researched and evidence-based training on life skills. Appropriate response to disappointment, rejection and temptation are the key lessons. It is vital to teach our children to have dreams and set ambitions – but should also be made aware not to trample on others. Children should have environmental consciousness.
Should the juvenile age in India be reduced to 16 from 18?
There are two strong lobbies here. One believes that reducing this age limit will expose children to other dangers. Other believes that it will make 16-year-olds more responsible for their actions. I am personally in favour of evaluating each case on its merit. A 17-year-old stabbing someone who he has seen killing his father is a different case from a 16-year-old who participates in trapping a girl and gang rape. What is needed is wise, fair and judicious implementation of policy and guidelines. Often children who indulge in sexual assault on other children have been victims themselves and never been helped.
Children have very few options for venting their natural aggression.
There is nothing like ‘natural teenage aggression’. What this means is the desire that every human being has to be his/her own self – to have thoughts, ideas and values different from others – at any rate, not be forced by others to follow these. We used to passionately fight with our father over an issue at 18 and by the time one reaches late thirties we are totally on the other side of the debate. However, it is difficult to be very mature at 18 years because there is a combination of lack of experience and a desire to prove oneself. The former is understood by parents (who unfortunately keep nagging about it) but not the latter. If parents stop jumping to the conclusion that the teenager is going to be a criminal just because he is screaming, just that itself would help.
Is the changing parent-child relationship to be blamed?
The child – parent relationship is certainly the most vital link in the ultimate outcome of the child as an individual citizen. No child – parent relationship can be perfect. Parents have their own beliefs, opinions and limitations – some modifiable with training, others pathological and some can never be changed. The father who ‘believes’ in corporal punishment or is alcoholic is difficult to change. A more open, humble person on the other hand is easily influenced by good training.