What are teens doing when there is nothing to do?
Today teenagers are in constant need for stimulation, for activities, for fun. It is quite obvious that social media keeps people connected, so when boredom strikes that is the place teens check for something to do. Although, when there is nothing to do, nowhere to be, then “good, clean fun” is hard to find. For example, Brian Houston, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Missouri stated, “What we found out in Kansas City is these weren't episodes where a bunch of youth were showing up to cause problems, they were kind of bored. They didn't have anything to do and bad things ended up happening”. It is not news that teenagers take risk, get into trouble, and make fast decisions. Money and mobility also play a large role in today’s “fun”. So it is no surprise teens are finding joy in chaos, which often spreads to other teenagers. Most teens today carry their world in their back pocket; their phone. In fact, when Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett had gotten caught in the middle of a mob of teens at the state fair, he explained, “This is not random, this is calculated; these are young people who are trying to create havoc”. He goes on to say he believes the use of social media helped the mob grow and spread. Social media, specifically Snapchat and twitter, can spread news faster than dry summer wildfire. A group of teens begin creating their own fun, post it, and before you know it you have a full on mob of teens all feeding off each others energy, because they see more and more items on their feed of their friends “having fun”.
Why are teen mobs forming?
Teens are prone to forming cliques. Doing what is “cool” even if it is not smart. Teenagers are impressionable and vulnerable. When you have a group of people, all with the same mindset or same opinions and feelings, you are faced with a choice. To be with them, or against them. Professor Jens Krause of the University of Leeds conducted a series of experiments testing the strength of individual teens against a crowd of their peers and other teenagers. Professor Krause reported that, “We asked groups of people were asked to walk randomly around a large hall. Within the group, a select few received more detailed information about where to walk. Participants were not allowed to communicate with one another but had to stay within arms length of another person. The findings show that in all cases, the ‘informed individuals’ were followed by others in the crowd, forming a self-organizing, snake-like structure.” Whether it is because they think it is right, or simply because they do not want to be left out, people naturally “follow the leader.” It is said over and over again that when mobs of teens form, they are not committing random acts of violence or crime for no reason. It might not be a justifiable reason, but they do have motives. Often teenagers who do not have money, or a car, or a nice home become resentful of those who do. Causing groups of teens who all feel inferior to others to act out negatively. Professor Krause, with PhD student John Dyer found, “That it takes a minority of just 5 percent to influence a crowd’s direction – and that the other 95 percent follow without realizing it.” This is vital to understand because once there is a group of leaders within a crowd of people with similar problems and opinions, the dominos begin to fall. Once the “leaders” of the mob act out it is only a matter of time before you have a mob of teens blindly following the “leaders” and using the energy of the mob as a whole to direct their own feelings and actions. Most people do not realize that they are being led by others, this is where the danger begins.
What Crimes are These Mobs Committing?
A crowd of teenagers, now filled with jealousy, anger, and boredom, will create a mob of teens retaliating with violence and causing mass destruction. In fact, recently a mob of teenagers roamed the streets near the Temple University campus. A reporter for The Tab spoke to a junior Environmental Science Major, who explained how her interaction with the mob of teens played out. She stated, “We see 10 then 20 then up to like 40 kids pour out from around the corner of Oxford and 16th and we then crossed the street but two kids followed us and hit my boyfriend. My boyfriend ran and got away but the second I tried to run, they grabbed me by my hair and started beating my head and back.” This was not the only report of a violent attack from this mob. A motive for their crimes were never discovered other than boredom and jealousy of the privileged students. Also in recent news, in Milwaukee the fair grounds become the fighting grounds. Journal-Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl writes, “The black kids at the fair started by beating up each other, police said, and at closing time they turned that rage on whites outside the gates. This newspaper normally avoids mentioning the race of people involved in crime, unless it's part of a description to help apprehend someone at large. But this incident, along with the looting and racially motivated beatings in Riverwest last month, has forced the issue”. The article goes on to say that it is believed the spark that started the violence was jealousy. Teen unemployment rates are very low, so you have teens who have enough money to get into the fair, but not enough to do or buy anything. With the sun beating on your back, no money in your pocket, surrounded by people who have money to blow. It’s no surprise that the teens quickly became filled with jealousy and rage.
Is Anyone Handling the Problem?
Communities are not being properly informed of the severity of the problem, and often a mob is only found when the victims speak out. These mobs are so powerful not only because of the mass amount of people involved, but also because they all know the consequences are so minor, so they aren’t afraid of getting caught. They’ll do whatever they want because who is gonna stop them? For example, when massive mobs of teens were roaming the streets near Temple University, students of TU went to twitter and social media with rage. After multiple people who encountered the mob had been attacked. After the mob had been actively causing destruction in the area for two weeks, then TU thought a warning of the mob was appropriate. One student tweeted, “@TempleUniv I got this TU alert 2 hours after I was (& many other people were) attacked. Please do a better job of alerting when it happens.” Adults have been undermining teenagers since the beginning of time, so no one is prepared for the power teen mobs can pack. Not only are these mobs not being properly prevented, but over seventy five percent of the mobs do face consequences for the crimes they helped commit. Dr.Rick Nauert, a professor at Rocky Mountain University stated, “It seems as if these teenagers are not concerned with getting caught as they obviously could care less about the security cameras catching their every move. Could it be that their lack of concern is because the penalization of a juvenile is nothing more than a slap on the wrist?” He goes on to explain how teenagers already lack the full capability to understand consequences, which is why in general teenagers make risky decisions. He adds in the fact that Juvenile Detention Centers have failed time and time again to change the mindset of the teens sent there. And how the justice system is not doing their part in teaching teenagers that, “If you do the crime, you do the time.”
How Can We Stop & Prevent Teen Mobs?
The system has been failing teenagers for years upon years. These mobs are not afraid of the police, nor what their consequences could be. They need more than a slumber party at Juvenile Detention Centers. Research shows that over 500,000 youths are brought to detention centers each year in the U.S. and yet the more than 70,000 youths are incarcerated on any given day in the U.S. How can both these rates be so high and climbing? Many argue that the rates are dropping and crime in teenagers is slowing down drastically. These are not low numbers and the worst part is, most teenagers do not get caught up with the crimes they commit. And if they do, no change is being implemented. But there still is time to make a change. MST stands for Multisystemic Therapy. MST is an intensive family- and community-based treatment program that focuses on addressing all environmental systems that impact chronic and violent juvenile offenders, their homes and families, schools and teachers, neighborhoods and friends. With thirty years of research and twenty three clinical studies, their results have shown magnificent change! Exactly what we are looking for, change. Of the juvenile delinquents who have gone through Multisystemic Therapy, 85% were kept in school or working, 88% were kept in their homes, and 85% had no new arrest after MST. These are real results. MST is producing change in a young teens mind and actions. Pushing them to be more involved at school, at home, and in their communities. Teen mobs are a real problem, and it’s time for us all to devote to make real changes.