Are your kids safe this summer?

By Chuck Norris

While millions of high school graduates across the country receive their diplomas and use this summer to work or transition to college or other areas of service, there is a social and criminal problem lurking among the hot summer nights and days for many teens and even tweens.

Summer is one of the most fun times of the year. It is also a season of increased crime and illicit entanglements for young people across America. And it’s not just an East and West Coast problem, but a rural problem too, as we will examine.

I’m concerned with what the youth of America have planned for the summer. I wonder what they are going to do to stay out of trouble, and how older generations are brainstorming to protect and empower them to avoid predators, who prey on vulnerable victims both online and in vacation areas, too.

I’ve written extensively about the risks of online criminals like pedophiles, who are seeking right now to violate your children’s boundaries on even the most-accepted platforms of social media. If you haven’t, familiarize yourself with those battlefields and their warfare by reading about them here.

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Statistics for teen violence also escalate in rural areas over the summer, particularly because small towns across America have fewer resources and finances to offer alternatives. (It’s important to note that one in four Americans lives in a rural community with a population of 2,500 or fewer.)

Though a bit dated, the study “Youth Violence in Rural Areas,” conducted by National Center for Health Research, “found important similarities and one important difference in the community characteristics that predict youth violence. In the rural areas, as in urban areas, juvenile delinquency (as measured by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report data) is more common in communities with higher levels of ethnic diversity, female-headed households and residential instability (proportion of families that moved from another dwelling in the previous five years).”

Anyone who is truly examining youth violence today has to face the reality that juvenile offenders are becoming much more cold, calculated and narcissistic, thanks to a society that is feeding those images and characters to our kids.

After conducting more than 5,000 interviews with juvenile and adult offenders over almost 20 years of forensic psychology, Shawn Johnston, a forensic psychologist in San Rafael, California, offers this opinion: The recent bunch of accused killers are “very self-centered, very self-absorbed, angry youngsters who derive extraordinary pleasure from savage vengeance they wreak on one another.”

The mental world of these young killers is “all about ‘me.’ They’re frustrated, angry, in some pain, not getting everything they want. They feel like victims. They have no concern about others – they don’t think about others. It’s all about who they are and what they want.”

Again, unfortunately, we can no longer assume that our kids are going to be safe at all public events. Make sure there is solid security where your kids travel and go this summer.

Next column I’m going to list what I believe are the best of the best ideas from experts about what will protect and simultaneously instill worth in young people this summer while decreasing violent crime rates among their peers. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas too, and may include some in next week’s column. Feel free to share your thoughts below in the comments section.

Suffice it for me to conclude here that the first thing we need to do is ante-up the value of young people in America rather than denigrate it any further.

For far too long, too many have looked down upon young people, especially teens. Rather than seeing them as the keys to America’s future and safety, too many see them as throw-aways.

That is why I believe we need to share stories about valiant teens with kids to spur on their own potential. You might even need the reminder of real heroic teenagers as much as they do. A simple Google search will yield a few good ones.

One heroic story I heard a few years ago came from mid-California where teens stepped up to help a woman who was threatening suicide.

A group of middle school boys on the Kepler School volleyball team were jogging in downtown Fresno as part of their conditioning when one of them saw the figure of a person dangling from the Stanislaus Bridge. That person was a 47-year-old woman, who Fresno police later confirmed had intended to end her life. You’ve got to read and share the story from FOX2 KTVU with your teen about the moment when the boys saw her in trouble, ran over to the bridge and launched an impassioned campaign to save her life.

There are great stories like the above about the positive influence of teenagers as far back as the Revolutionary War, such as those in C. Brian Kelly’s enjoyable work, “Best Little Stories from the American Revolution.” One in particular is about Marquis de Lafayette, who was only 16 years old when he joined the Black Musketeers. By sharing his story with your kids, you can not only teach them about early American history but challenge and inspire them to know what youth can accomplish.

Lafayette was among the cream of the crop of these French black-horse riders in the royal household troops. When those Musketeers disbanded in 1776, the next year the 19-year-old Lafayette volunteered to fight in the Revolutionary War against France’s old rival to its north. Congress granted him the temporary rank of major general.

George Washington met him in 1777, when the Continental Army was at another pivotal and critical point in the war. They were outflanked again. Riding to the rescue was Washington and this new younger aide. Lafayette quickly proved his courage. Though wounded in the leg and losing blood, he could still be found rallying the troops.

Over the next few years, both Lafayette and Washington would experience horrendous discouragement and defeats on various battlefields, from the Battles of Brandwine and Germantown to the winters of Valley Forge. But together they eventually would win the war.

In 1781, Washington and Rochambeau were fighting the Red Coats in the north, while Lafayette and Gen. Wayne fought them in the south. But when Washington was told the French were sending 30 warships and 3,000 additional troops to Virginia, they turned south as well and eventually converged on Cornwallis outside Yorktown, forcing his surrender. Two months later Lafayette returned home abroad as a “hero of two worlds.”

What young person wouldn’t be inspired by Lafayette’s story?

Again, today, we’ve gone from spurring on teenage greatness to trampling their value and expecting little from them. Teenagers have become little more than the brunt end of parental child-rearing quips and jokes.

As Robert Kiyosaki, author of “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” outlines so well, most parents regard them as barely good enough to handle chores, rather than delegate to them weighty responsibilities that instill value and self-worth. Kiyosaki’s book is now a classic in inspiring kids and parents to greatness.

Investing in young people is exactly why my wife, Gena, and I have made our life mission – helping kids in middle school across Texas overcome worries, anxieties and fears through our Kickstart Kids Foundation (KSK). KSK’s purpose is to build a strong moral character in our youth through the martial arts. Our goal is to help raise their self-esteem and instill discipline and respect that so many children are lacking today. Here we are at a recent KSK event at Park Crest Middle School in Texas where Gena and I were congratulating students who were receiving their new belt ranks.

Making America great again is not just about rebuilding our economy, electing your preferred presidential candidate or securing the borders – as important as those things are. Is there really a better solution for America’s safety and keeping it great than investing in the youth?

We have to believe again in young people, and that happens one young person at a time. We must see their latent potential and help them to soar.

Teach teens, particularly those who feel lost and lonely this summer, what you yourself had to learn (maybe the hard way). As the great C.S. Lewis described: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

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