Sue Scheff: Teen Fight Clubs - School Violence

Last week I wrote about School Violence. This week Connect with Kids gives us parenting tips on Fight Clubs.

Fight Clubs

“Some of them would stop when the guy just got knocked out cold, totally knocked out - unconscious, got knocked unconscious.”

– David, 19 years old

Fighting just for the fun of it is back. Fight clubs were popularized in the 1999 movie with the same name and now students at three different high schools in California have been arrested for taking part in these organized brawls that draw hundreds of spectators and often end up on the Internet.

The fight club videos that some kids post on the Internet can be gruesome, brutal.

“Some of them would stop when the guy just got knocked out cold, totally knocked out - unconscious, got knocked unconscious,” says 19-year-old David, who fought in and watched many fight clubs during his high school years.

And yet, kids say taking part in fight clubs is… fun.

“It’s just an adrenaline rush, it gets you pumping,” says 18-year-old Brandon, “It’s like you’re fighting this other person, you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“I’ve broke fingers, I’ve broke toes,” adds David. “But a couple of the guys got real hurt.”

David fought throughout his four years in high school. He says there’s a kind of ‘glory’ in fight clubs.

“[Students,] they all the time [say], ‘oh did you see so-and-so fight?’” he remembers. “And everybody would hear about it and, you know, he’d be lifted up on an imaginary pedestal – because, you know, he beat the hell out of somebody. ‘Cause he won and, you know, everybody wants that kind of fame between their peers.”

Experts say that if you suspect your child is involved in a fight club, first send a clear message.

“That this is very dangerous,” says Psychologist Tracy Talmadge, Ph.D., “That you can get hurt, other kids can get hurt. I love you, and I certainly don’t want you to get hurt.”

Second, he says, parents should be emphatic: fighting is simply unacceptable.

“You don’t let up. You stick on it with them. And you say that this is not going to be allowed.”

Third, he advises parents to report fight clubs to their child’s school - and to the police.

“This is such a serious issue,” says Talmadge, “that you want to bring in all the possible resources that can reasonably be expected to help.”

Tips for Parents
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, several factors lead to an increased risk of violent behavior in children and adolescents. These factors include:

■Previous aggressive or violent behavior
■Being the victim of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse
■Exposure to violence in the home and/or community
■Genetic (family heredity) factors
■Exposure to violence in media (TV, movies, etc.)
■Use of drugs and/or alcohol in the presence of firearms in home
■Combination of stressful family socioeconomic factors (poverty, severe deprivation, marital breakup, single parenting, unemployment, loss of support from extended family)
■Brian damage from head injury
Children who have several risk factors and show the following behaviors should be carefully evaluated:

■Intense anger
■Frequent loss of temper or blow-ups
■Extreme irritability
■Extreme impulsiveness
■Becoming easily frustrated
The most serious threats to the health and safety of adolescents and young adult are preventable. They result from such risk-taking behaviors as fighting, substances abuse, suicide, and sexual activity rather than from illnesses. These behaviors have harmful, even deadly, consequences.

Changes in teen participation in specific risk behaviors have been well documented. What is less well known, and of growing concern, is how overall teen risk-taking has changed. In addition, information is lacking about the nuances in the behavior of adolescents who engage in more than one of these risks at a time. Teens who participate in multiple risks increase the chance of damaging their health.

■American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
■American Academy of Pediatrics
■American Psychological Association
■Urban Institute
■Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance

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