Friday, January 20, 2017

Children See Violence As Normal

By: Perla Miranda & Alejandra Canchola | Translated by Valor for Borderland Beat

Previously, on the streets of Mexico, children would play with spinning tops, marbles, doctor or police, they got along together and assumed roles that were constructive and functional in a peaceful society; today, given the climate in which violence prevails, they must learn to be victims or aggressors and have modified their behavior to use their creativity in actions that make them feel safe, according to specialists in the human rights of children.

Nelia Tello, a researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and a specialist in intervention models among young people, explained that children are influenced by a violent environment that internalize it as if it were something natural, “[it] doesn’t cause them any surprise, it’s the world in which they were born in and in which they develop,” she said.  She added that minors can create two sense of defense: being aggressive or tolerant to violent acts.

The first case has to do with those children who, when witnessing any kind of violence, become anxious and this feeling of uncertainty causes them fear, which in turn makes them aggressive even when no one is bothering them.

This social violence that is seen in the media, assaults and deaths, is affecting their customs of everyday life; then, they are incited to defend themselves and they become very aggressive, all the while they are waiting for others to attack them and they prepare themselves to defend,” she explained.

On the other hand are children who learn to tolerate violence, who are educated under a system of overprotection that don’t learn to live together and live in isolation.

That is why, according to Tello, violence has become a means in which children have to survive and for that, they create different social skills.

At 11 years old, Juan David Hernández designed a backpack that serves to protect himself from the shootings and robberies that occur every day in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, the city in which he lives in.

At a state-level science fair, he explained that his backpack has a bullet-proof vest, an alarm, a lamp, and a GPS system that connects to his parents’ phone.

He said that because of the crime that prevails in his community and that shootings are a daily occurrence, the backpack he created is very useful.  He assured that in case of an emergency, children can get on the floor as they have been taught to do by the Civil Protection and cover their head and back with the backpack in order to avoid a stray bullet from hitting them.

Silvia Novoa, director of the World Vision Organization in Mexico, said that children are not born violent, but learn to be aggressors because they replicate what they see in adults or in the places where they grow up in.  She said that before, children used their creativity to play, but now, they do it to defend themselves or to attack others.

She mentioned that this has to do with the fact that violence in the country has been glorified and that that generates children who yearn to be a part of the ranks of organized crime and satisfy their sense of belonging, coupled with that so they can access various luxuries; this also causes minors to fear growing up, because they feel more vulnerable to being recruited by criminal gangs.

Experts on children’s rights agree that violence has not only changed behavior in terms of security or the daily chores of adult society, but now it will become common for minors to be concerned about safeguarding their own lives.

Nashely Ramírez, coordinator of Ririki Intervención Social and an expert in education, said that the impact of violence on children has important consequences in society.  “The changes that security has had in Mexico are reflected even in their daily activities since in addition to attending school or playing, they plan solutions that protect them from shootings.”

She added that this is the result of the parents’ estrangement, because due to their working life, they can’t spend the necessary time with them nor control the content of the messages to which they are exposed to in their everyday lives.

In regards to the way in which Mexico has changed for the children in the matter of security, she affirmed that it has done it in two aspects:  the first is the little time that parents dedicate themselves to their children because of the rhythm of life, almost always for work matters; while the second aspect that has changed the reality of children is globalization and the use of new communication technologies that, in the absence of parents, lack regulation and interpretation accompanied by their use and meaning.

She clarified that the regulation of violent content in the media does not imply “an attack on freedom of expression,” instead, it’s about “how they regulate the contents of high violence that will inevitably be exposed to children.”

Regarding the actions that society and government must take to solve this growing problem, she said that Mexico’s biggest deficit in this area lies in social support and development strategies.

She said that the erroneous idea is maintained that when talking about psychological counseling, it is referred to as “talking about a sickness” and this paradigm not only dominates social culture, but also government strategies: “There isn’t a policy that incorporates mental health in its individual and collective part.”

She emphasized that among the successful measures of the Ministry of Public Education (SEP), is the full-time school program, which uses collective learning to ensure that children develop their day in a safe environment.  She added that measures to prevent them from knowing that they grow up in unsafe environments should be national in scope, but also assisted locally.

Source: El Universal