Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sue Scheff: Teen Gangs and Youth Gangs

Gang activity in the United States is not always the way that the media portrays it. Gang violence is not restricted to inner city settings, nor is it simply the activity of minority groups. There are gangs in cities, suburbs, and even small town America and the violence that many of these gangs encourage and participate in is costing far too many lives. Most gangs are a loosely organized group of individuals who control a territory. A significant portion of gang violence stems from fighting over territory, which may be used to distribute drugs. Additionally, gangs tend to denote members through a sign or color. Two of the most well known gangs in the United States are the Bloods and the Crips which use the colors red and blue respectively.

Gangs often prey on the teenagers who wish to fit in. Being part of a gang can provide teenagers sought after friends and popularity. By joining a gang, teens have a social network already established for them with friends who are literally ready to die for them. This infrastructure can fill a void in a young person's life quickly and easily; however, it is in a negative way. The teenage years are a formative and difficult time for many people and joining a gang is a simple way to feel liked and popular. This is especially appealing for individuals with low self confidence or who feel as if they do not fit in. In dangerous neighborhoods, joining a gang can actually provide protection from other gangs, which is attractive for many people.

Since the 1970's, gang activity has spiraled out of control. Prior to the 70's, fewer than half of the states were plagued by gang activity, but now there is not a single state that does not have to deal with youth gang activity. Violence and gang activity peaked in 1996, but has decreased overall since then. However, activity continues to increase in less urban settings and violence is continuing to become more lethal. Many people believe this is due to gangs' involvement in the increasingly lucrative drug trafficking market. This is not the case. The increase in violence seems to be stem from the availability and easy access of lethal weapons. Additionally, cars have become a more common accessory in attacks on rival gangs.

I am Sue Scheff, and my organization Parents Universal Resource Experts (P.U.R.E.) seeks to protect America's teens. Keeping your troubled teen safe and on the right path in life can be an incredibly difficult task, but you are not the only one facing these problems, nor are you without resources. We as parents must work together to support one another and provide assistance and advice to educate and support one another through the difficult times. At P.U.R.E. you will find resources, including other parents who have faced the same trouble as you, which will alleviate the difficulties of raising a teenager.

If you are worried that your son or daughter has already or is likely to become involved with a gang, do not wait to seek help. We have compiled an abundance of useful resources on youth gang activity.
If the safety and well being of your teenager is at risk, do not hesitate to seek our support or professional help. Visit our website, Help Your Teens. The consultation service is free and any parent seeking help will be accommodated. You are not alone!

For more information visit Youth Gangs Website.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sue Scheff Launches New Websites to Help Parents with At Risk Teens

With today’s teens, parents can struggle with them and the issues that they are confronted with. As parent advocate, I believe in educating parents with “stuff” teens deal with including peer pressure and more.

Take a moment to review my latest websites to help inform on teenagers today.

Teen Suicide
Teen Cults
Preventing Teen Drug Addiction
Teen Mischief
Identity Crisis for Adopted Children

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Sue Scheff: Teen Gangs - Kids in Groups Take on More Risks by Connect with Kids

“They do have the cognitive functions that allow them to control their emotions and organize. They’re just not as good at it, during the adolescent years, as they will be during adulthood.”

– Elizabeth Sowell, Ph.D., neuroscientist, UCLA Department of Neurology

With advanced brain-imaging technology, researchers have been learning more about how the human brain develops. One mystery experts have explored is why teenagers act the way they do: rebellious, impulsive and too willing to take risks. Now we may have an answer: one part of the adolescent brain is growing too fast, while another is growing too slowly.

Teenagers experiment with drugs. Drive too fast. Get angry and don’t know why.

“Pretty much the rebellion stage started kicking in right about age 12,” recalls Kim, currently 15.

What happens at age 12? According to new research from Temple University, teenagers feel emotions intensely, and care about how other kids feel about them. All that emotion resides in a part of the brain that grows quickly during adolescence. Meanwhile, the rational, careful, thoughtful part of the brain develops more slowly. That imbalance can cause kids to take risks.

“The parts of the brain that continue to develop during adolescence are the parts of the brain that we might expect when we think about typical, negative adolescent behaviors,” says Elizabeth Sowell, Ph.D., neuroscientist, UCLA Dept. of Neurology.

In fact, the study found that when kids were surrounded by other kids while participating in a simulated driving game, they were twice as likely to take risks.

“We know that adolescents are bigger risk takers, we don’t need the brain to tell us that. We know that they get in more car accidents than adults do,” says Sowell.

Experts say the good news is that while it may not be easy to teach teens to avoid risks, it’s not impossible, either.

“They do have the cognitive functions that allow them to control their emotions and organize. They’re just not as good at it, during the adolescent years, as they will be during adulthood,” says Sowell.

Experts say it helps to teach kids to ask themselves a question: ‘if you do this, what are the possible consequences?’ And don’t answer for them.

“Also, it’s much more rewarding for them if they come to the conclusion. Because it’s really coming from their heart and they know that whatever happens, they did the right thing for themselves,” says Diana, 15.

Tips for Parents

Sometimes, stresses in your life can actually come from your friends or peers. They may pressure you into doing something you're uncomfortable with, such as cheating, shoplifting, doing drugs or drinking, taking dangerous risks when driving a car, or having sex before you feel ready. (Nemours Foundation)

Listen to your gut. If you feel uncomfortable, even if your friends seem to be okay with what's going on, it means that something about the situation is wrong for you. This kind of decision-making is part of becoming self-reliant and learning more about who you are. (Nemours Foundation)

Plan for possible pressure situations. If you'd like to go to a party but you believe you may be offered alcohol or drugs there, think ahead about how you'll handle this challenge. Decide ahead of time — and even rehearse — what you'll say and do. Learn a few tricks. If you're holding a bottle of water or a can of soda, for instance, you're less likely to be offered a drink you don't want. (Nemours Foundation)

Arrange a "bail-out" code phrase you can use with your parents without losing face with your friends. For instance, you might call home from a party where you're feeling pressure to drink alcohol and say, "Can you come drive me home? I have a terrible earache." (Nemours Foundation)

Learn to feel comfortable saying "no." With good friends you should never have to offer an explanation or apology. But if you feel you need an excuse for, say, turning down a drink or smoke, think up a few lines you can use casually. (Nemours Foundation)

Hang with people who feel the same way you do. Choose friends who will speak up with you when you're in need of moral support, and be quick to speak up for a friend in the same way. If you're hearing that little voice telling you a situation's not right, chances are others hear it, too. Just having one other person stand with you against peer pressure makes it much easier for both people to resist. (Nemours Foundation)


Nemours Foundation
UCLA Department of Neurology