Five days a week, parents wake their children, get them dressed, and feed them breakfast. Then, they send their children off to spend the day with hundreds of strangers in an unfamiliar environment. Millions of parents practice this ritual, but it doesn’t make it any easier. Schools are truly wonderful places. There, our children made friends, gain knowledge and find inspiration. Unfortunately, they can also find themselves in danger. The threat of gun violence often overshadows the great work done at our schools.
During the 1980s and 90s, the United States saw an increase in gun-related violence in schools. Since 1980, there have been 299 school shootings in the United States. The trend continues. However, the way gun violence occurs has changed due to social media and the Internet.
The majority of American children have a cell phone or a computer. Because of this, news travels faster than ever. These devices allow children to purchase guns and learn how to use them. They also allow children to send texts and pictures that may damage others. This greatly affects gun violence. Students who are angry and desperate for attention know that their act of terror will be immediately broadcast to the world.
Students who are in danger of committing gun crimes often share characteristics. These common behaviors and traits serve as warning signs. If noticed and caught in time, we can prevent them from hurting themselves and others. Often, these warning signs can be seen online in chat rooms, forums, emails or texts. Be on the lookout for:
Social or emotional distress and/or disengagement
Feelings of failure and anger towards certain aspects of life (classes, friends,
Hinting at the idea of hurting someone
Researching weapons, shootings or other violent acts
Angry obsessions about certain people or ideas
Outbursts of violence that are not typical behavior
It is imperative that parents and educators are familiar with the above warning signs. It’s also important to act and to protect other students in these situations. If you have reason to believe a child may commit an act of violence, alert administrators immediately. Precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of others. When it comes to online behavior, content filters may block access to certain sites. Through computer word and phrase monitoring software, schools can monitor a student’s behavior on- and offline.Computer word and phrase monitoring software also alerts administrators if students type in threats of violence or try to buy guns online at school.
When it comes to gun violence, you can never have too many systems in place to catch this kind of behavior. Monitoring a child’s web activity to see if they are searching for information about weapons, past school shootings or any other sort of troubling information will give parents, educators and administrators a head start in addressing the issue.
Text by Laura Jane Crocker