High schools in US are transformed into ‘fighting arenas’ among teens. Many adults suffering from anxiety and depression blame high-school period as the start reason of their psychological issues. Bullying, profound differentiation among groups of students, and sometimes racing are the main factors of the current situation in US high schools.
I’m not going to discuss whether this situation is healthy for the society, or if it is needed for the young generation to understand the real world they will live in when becoming adults. What I’d like to talk about in this article is to see what are the causes of such anger and aggression in schools and how can we as parents and good citizens avoid the excessive energy of teenagers end up being cause of deaths at schools (massive shooting, suicide, physical confrontations, etc.)
What Causes Anger and Aggression?
Some days ago I read an interesting study published at Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging where was explained how anger and aggression happen in the human brain. The group of 5 researchers came to the conclusion that anger and aggression happen due to the collision of the two different networks inside the human brain: Default Network and Attention Network. The default network is responsible for the inner side (feelings, deep thoughts, paradigm, etc.) While the attention network is responsible for our behavior toward the outside (other people, different circumstances, stuff that request our attention for things outside us). Scientists have found out that when a human brain is concentrated in both network at the same time, the brain could not support the distraction and ‘produces’ strong negative emotions.
The typical situation is when someone is focused on its inner side, thinking for own stuff or reflecting for key personal matters and people around him/her request his/her attention. At the very first moment, this individual is working with high intensity with the default network of the brain. At the second moment, other people distract his/her attention and request him/her to focus on them; the brain could not stand to be highly concentrated in both networks at the same time and react with anger and aggression.
Doesn’t this sound quite familiar with the teenagers’ behavior? They implode suddenly and without any big reason when seen from outside. What really happens: they could not control the outside distractions from their inner side concentration.
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7 Advice to Improve Social Environment in US High – Schools
Here are some advice on how to deal with the issue of fighting at school and its consequences.
Leave Teenagers Alone
They are going through a very difficult phase of life with lots of changes and need to concentrate their thoughts and energy to find their way. This advice is valid for all groups of people around high-school teenagers: parents, teachers, peers. Do not pressure teens, let them do things in their own way. Let them make choices in their own tranquility.
Avoid Isolation of Teenagers (not only at school)
When I say leave teens alone, I do not mean to isolate them. I mean give them the time to respond in their way. A recent study published in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry (performed in 38 high schools in US), concluded that schools with stronger networking among students, tent to have 10% less suicide attempts. The researcher call for not allowing isolation of students in high-schools (isolation means students have no friends at school). The same approach should be used for neighborhood and other communities.
Hire ‘The Miracle-Adult’ at Each School
The same study, I mentioned at the second advice, emphasized one even more important factor then good students’ networking to prevent suicides in high schools. The researchers found out that there were 20% less suicide attempts at the schools with the presence of an adult who is seen as a trusted person from students. I call this particular adult the ‘Miracle- Adult’, as he/she is capable to act as trusted source of advice and as reliable person for teens to openly express their issues. Each high school in the country should proactively invest in building up one or more staff that will serve as ‘miracle- adults’.
Improve Teachers’ Behavior
Schools with aggressive behavior in their halls, generally face the same attitude from teachers in the classrooms. Teachers who do not treat students well, who are tired of the difficulties of their job and who do not respect all students the same way, somehow are acting as source of added negative emotions among students. Teachers, like parents, have a strong power upon students at school. If they are smart enough to understand and use this power to improve students’ lives and to help them unleash their capabilities, they will make a huge contribution to the society. The same applies for other school staff.
Stop Blaming Violent Video Games.
Based on two studies focused on Psychology of Popular Media Culture, was found out that in cases of massive shootings in US schools, people tend to blame video games as the source of inspiration for such terrible events. This is more common especially when the perpetrator is white. Till now, it was not found any scientific relation between violent video-games and the shootings at schools. So, stop blaming the video-games, better look after what is happening in the schools’ halls some months before the shootings.
Improve Parent – School Collaboration.
This advice is valid in two dimensions: individual approach and institution approach. On the individual level, parents and teachers should communicate about the issues they face with teens attitude, academic performance and social behavior. Both parents and teachers should pay attention to each student to understand if they are well and healthy (physical & mental wise). This way the isolation of students should be avoided and less problems will occur. Parents and teachers should collaborate on institutional level, to make sure the school board takes the right decision to transform the school from a ‘fighting arena’ into growing and healthy environment for students. Activities that bring students together, that promote equality and merits are definitely needed to improve the current situation in US high schools.
Zero Tolerance Policy Against Bullying.
Most of the time the bullies of the school (and other places as well) are school director’ favorite students or teachers’ ones. This kind of approach should stop! If we want to improve social climate in our schools and avoid further terrible deaths there, bullying should not be tolerated. And when I say stop bullying, I mean any kind of bullying: from the first tiny insult to the daily humiliations some students face at school. The school boards play an important role here, by approving the necessary school policies to fulfill this goal.
These are the ideas I found adequate to start resolving the unacceptable situation in US high schools. I’d be very interested to hear from other parents and academic staff, if there are other ideas and practices that have shown to be working well. Let’s share opinions and ideas about this sensitive subject, in order to make something real to improve the climate in high schools.
Featured image: Tam High Vigil for Parkland School Shooting by https://commons.wikimedia.org
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