(File pix) ... there was a time when violence on television was blamed, but, naturally, the individual’s psychological make-up was a determining factor.

INCORRIGIBLE — that was what used to describe children with attitude. They were naughty, able to hotwire cars and take them for joyrides. When caught by the police, they end up in a reform school, like the Henry Gurney School in Melaka for boys. Wayward girls, meanwhile, had their own reform establishment.

In short, some children have always crossed certain unacceptable lines and juvenile delinquents have always been a social problem.

Today, however, the degree of violence perpetrated by minors is shocking: they kill, they maim and they rape. In the latest incident, a schoolboy laced fried noodles with roach poison and offered it to another boy, who, in all innocence, ate the poisoned fare. The boy is in critical condition and police are investigating the incident.

All it takes is a cursory look at the recent past to quickly uncover the many instances of violence among the young that have caused death, as that which occurred in the National Defence University of Malaysia, for example. In Penang, a young man was persecuted and beaten by his peers for being effeminate. There are several other bullying cases gone tragically wrong. In Sarawak, a teenager tried to stab his mother to death with the help of a friend, but, fortunately, the victim survived. Sadly, murder/manslaughter is not the only crime. A teenager is being investigated by the police for raping his own sisters.

As is normal, society is left to grapple with such social ills, trying to discover what or who opened a truly diabolical Pandora’s Box leading to such egregious behaviour among Malaysia’s youth. What has deformed the moral values of some to such an extent? Given that the phenomenon is global, many look to Western precedents for some explanation. For instance, there was a time when violence on television was blamed, but, naturally, the individual’s psychological make-up was a determining factor. When in war, American soldiers decided to turkey shoot purported enemies from their helicopters, the scene too eerily reminiscent of computer games, which, according to experts, blurred the border between reality and fantasy for some.

Surely, of greater pertinence is the breakdown of moral standards? In a world where Satanism has been declared a legitimate religion and has a right to equal exposure in schools, albeit only in some states of the United States, the alarm bells must ring. The influence of mass and social media via the Internet cannot be downplayed. Witness the way it has been manipulated by paedophiles. When some youngsters actually spend hours on social media and YouTube, the seamlessness of evil becomes a reality. Parents are not equipped to fully supervise the activities of children who, when young, are kept occupied by electronic devices, allowing for some needed peace. They naturally graduate to more “sophisticated” viewing as they grow older. Unregulated, they will have access to many prevailing evil influences. God forbid that they are able to access the so-called “dark web”, where evil lurks in between the convenience of anonymity. Is the overly liberal attitude to the Internet to blame?

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