Thursday, December 11, 2003

Violent Kids

Time magazine reports that young children are increasingly violent.

Temper tantrums are nothing new in kindergarten and first grade, but the behavior of a 6-year-old girl this fall at a school in Fort Worth, Texas, had even the most experienced staff members wanting to run for cover. Asked to put a toy away, the youngster began to scream. Told to calm down, she knocked over her desk and crawled under the teacher's desk, kicking it and dumping out the contents of the drawers. Then things really began to deteriorate. Still shrieking, the child stood up and began hurling books at her terrified classmates, who had to be ushered from the room to safety.

Why? Because the kids are watching too much TV, watching too much violent TV, and aren't having enough time with caring parents. After a full day of day-care, kids come home and watch 2 hours of TV.

Not every school district in America is besieged by kamikaze kindergartners, but those who see a problem believe they are witnessing the result of a number of social trends that have come together in a most unfortunate way. Many cite economic stress, which has parents working longer hours than ever before, kids spending more time in day care and everyone coming home too exhausted to engage in the kind of relationships that build social skills. "Kids aren't getting enough lap time," says Karen Bentley, a seasoned elementary school administrator in Miami, who sees increased aggression in young students.

This is a problem affecting all socio-economic groups. Kids today have no structure at home. No dinner times or bed time. And this is affecting their school performance. And clearly making them very, very unhappy.

He recounts, for example, that the mother of an obstreperous 4-year-old told him the child has no formal mealtimes and eats whenever he wants. "If you don't have to sit down at a dinner table and stay there, how are you going to learn to sit in a seat at school and finish an assignment?"

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