Parents’ Universal Resource Experts – Sue Scheff: Teen Vandalism

teenvandelismThe US Department of Justice defines vandalism as “willful or malicious destruction, injury, disfigurement, or defacement of any public or private property.” Vandalism can encompass many different acts, including graffiti, public unrest, rioting, and other types of criminal mischief, like breaking windows or arson. Even seemingly harmless pranks like egging and toilet papering homes are considered vandalism in most states.

Unfortunately, many acts of vandalism may go unnoticed in the home, because teens can easily avoid bringing any evidence back with them. This is why it is of particular importance that parents make an effort to know where their teens are at all times. Keeping an open dialogue with your teen about his schedule and friends can help you to better keep tabs on him. A teen that knows his parents care is more likely to avoid criminally mischievous behaviors in the first place.

If you suspect your teen is engaging in vandalism, don’t be afraid to discuss your fears with your teen. While again, it is important to not be accusatory, you should leave no doubt in your teen’s mind that you believe any act of vandalism- big or small- is wrong. Often, teens think vandalism is a ‘victimless crime’; in other words, they don’t believe they’re hurting anyone by spray painting graffiti on a brick building, or tossing a few eggs at a neighbor’s car.

This kind of thinking is your perfect segue into teaching your teen just how wrong vandalism can be.

When your teen defiantly tells you that “nobody got hurt,” explain to them that by spray-painting the façade of his high school, they costs the taxpayers (including you) money to have the graffiti covered and the crime investigated. Remind them that the money for these repairs has to come from somewhere, and that every dollar wasted to fix vandalism is a dollar that must now be cut from somewhere else.Maybe the school will have one less dance, or will be forced to cut out arts programs or programs for under privileged students. If your teen has been egging homes, point out the waste of food that some families cannot even afford. Remind them that someone will have to scrape the dried egg off your neighbor’s windshield, possibly making him late for work, costing him time and money.
 

For more info: Criminal Mischief and your Teen, Parents’ Universal Resource Experts, US Justice Department.

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