School Shootings: Why Social Media Warning Are Often Missed
It was reported that on the morning of February 27, 2012, T.J. Lane Tweeted about bringing a gun to school…a Tweet that went unnoticed. Was it a cry for help? Could someone have intervened and possibly stopped this terrible tragedy from happening?
Children, especially teens, can be influenced by a number of stressors that could lead them to commit violent acts. Gang activity and the use of drugs are two common stressors that lead to violence. Others that we don’t often think about are:
• Physical, psychological or emotional abandonment by parents (or someone else that it close to them)
• Abuse, neglect or severe family dysfunction
• Witnessing domestic violence
In the case of T.J. Lane, he came from a home where his father was arrested several times for abusing a multitude of women, including T.J.'s mother.
In order to keep our schools and homes safe we should be aware of signs that children and teens need help. The National Crime Prevention Council suggests that we look for the following signs:
• Lack of interest in school
• Absence of age-appropriate anger control skills
• Persistent disregard for or refusal to follow the rules
• History of bullying
• Talking constantly about weapons
• Obsessions with violent games
• Talking about or actually bringing a weapon to school
• Misplaced or unwarranted jealousies
• Involvement with or interest in gangs
• Self-isolation from family or friends
The more of these signs you see in a child, the greater chance that the child needs help before they lash out in a violent manner.
The red flags that I would add to this warning list are:
• Violent fantasies
• Feeling of hopelessness and despair
• Victim of extreme or ongoing bullying
• Artwork that depicts isolation or anger
• Violent or “dark” writing
• Makes ongoing jokes about violence
• Cruelty to pets or other animals
• Extreme isolation - sense that they don’t fit in anywhere and are the only one who feels that way
• A sense of desperation
• Talking about death for themselves or others
• Expressing angst about something that hasn’t happened yet
It has been reported that T.J. Lane posted this on his FaceBook status in December of last year:
“Feel death, not just mocking you. Not just stalking you but inside of you. Die all of you.”
This type of dark media is haunting and we need to teach students, teachers and parents to pay attention to social media postings like this.
Students are the best eyes and ears to what is going on in their own world. We must teach the younger generation to patrol Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites and when they find dark postings, threats or anything that makes them feel uncomfortable, they should bring it to a trusted adult.
Youth often find it difficult to go to an adult when they are in trouble or being bullied. They fear that we won’t believe them, will laugh it off and not take it seriously; or even worse, that we will think that they are weak and can’t stand up for themselves. When kids bring us information about themselves or a friend, especially if it’s involving threats, we need to address their concerns immediately.
Parents can be proactive by Friending and Following their children and their children's friends on social media. Depending on the age of your child you may want to know their password so you can periodically monitor posts.
By paying attention to social media posts both in our school age kids, as well as in corporations around the world, we can intervene early and get people the help that they need before a situation becomes violent.
Email me today at email@example.com to explore training options for Personal Safety and Warning Signs of Violence seminars.