Teen violence At play:
When it's no more a game
Nalindu,14, may not have meant to kill his friend, Malinga, 15. He
was only trying to drive his point home, his teammates said. Malinga
Nandana Lakshan, batting at a cricket match one humid evening, in an
abandoned paddy field in Uthugama in Welipanne last Sunday, was bowled
out, but refused to budge.
What ensued was a verbal argument between the two boys, as to who was
right, and whether Malinga should continue to play. It is unclear how
long the dispute had raged, and Nalindu, was at his wits' end, and
losing his patience, insisted that Malinga leave the pitch. There were
five other young boys who huddled around the two infuriated lads.
Before long, Nalindu grew tired of arguing, his patience wearing thin
in the sweltering heat. He did the unthinkable. According to Welipanne
Police, Nalindu grabbed the stick which the children had used as a
make-do wicket, and attacked Malinga with it. Malinga, had allegedly
collapsed on being struck with the wicket.
Pandemonium broke out, when the panic stricken boys cried foul.
Neighbours who had seen the commotion hurried to the scene to find
Malinga, lifeless, on the ground. He was rushed to the Waththawa
Hospital where he was pronounced dead on admission, hospital sources
said. Malinga, was a Grade 10 student at the Welipanne Ovitigala
Nalindu has spent six days, to-date, going over the bitter incident
that had led to such a dire consequence. He spends the days at a
shelter, until he would be produced at the Matugama Court, in-camera, on
October 4, when the Judges would decide his fate.
The Acting Officer-in-Charge, Welipanne Police, IP Karunarathne said,
it was unfortunate that a game of sport had turned out to be deadly.
When contacted by the Sunday Observer, he said, the other children were
questioned, but, only Nalindu was sent to the shelter. "The courts will
decide on a corrective course of action," he said.
While the police do not have any statistics of juvenile cases
reported this year, incidents of violence among young children also
referred to as 'youth violence' have been increasingly reported in the
media, in the recent past.
Retired Emeritus Sociology Prof Tennison Perera speaking to the
Sunday Observer said, there are various risk factors which contribute to
youth violence in Sri Lanka. Alarmingly, while society at large was
aware of a potentially dangerous pattern of such incidents of violence
among young children, little was being done to mitigate them, he said.
The Prof blames parents for their lackadaisical parenting attitude
and poor monitoring and supervision of children. "Nowadays, you find
parents who leave their children to their own devices; there's little
vigilance exercised when children leave home or when they socialize, and
if the parents do not discipline the child when he/she errs, they tend
to repeat such behaviour, which may be destructive or detrimental," he
This poor family functioning, he said, was made worse when both
parents in a family head out to work, while children are left
unattended. He added, parents need to pay heed to their child's
addiction to smartphones, television and games. Research has revealed
that children who silently battle smartphone addiction have shown lower
tolerance and patience.
Poor management of the technology has shown, it can lead to problems
at home, school, and work, as well as in relationships, especially,
among young people. Prof Perera added, technology robs children of
skills, patience, tolerance, or the ability to cope with a stressful
According to a National Report on Violence and Health in Sri Lanka,
prepared by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization,
there are various risk factors which contribute to youth violence in the
country. Based on data from Police, National Child Protection Authority,
Department of Probation and Child Care services, and Children's
Secretariat of the Ministry of Social Welfare and National Youth
Services Council, risk factors for violent behaviour can be viewed
mainly in four domains: individual, family, school/peer group, and
Individual factors needing attention are; deficit/hyperactivity,
antisocial beliefs and attitudes, history of early aggressive behaviour,
involvement in drugs, alcohol or tobacco, early involvement in general
offences, low IQ, poor behavioral control, social cognitive or
During childhood, the strongest individual risk factors include
committing serious (but not necessarily violent) criminal offences and
substance use, while other factors are, hyperactivity and physical
aggression, as stated in the report.
Family factors include authoritarian parental attitudes, exposure to
violence and family conflict, harsh or inconsistent disciplinary
practices, lack of involvement in the child's life, low emotional
attachments to parents or caregivers, low parental education and income,
parental substance abuse and criminality, poor family functioning, poor
monitoring and supervision of children.
According to the case studies discussed at the National Child
Protection Authority, other risk factors include poor parent-child
relations exemplified by harsh, lax, or inconsistent discipline.
Children of divorced, separated, or never-married parents are at a
slightly increased risk of violence.
Sunil Abeynayake, a Chemistry teacher, said, he frequently saw clash
of opinions which escalated beyond a mere disagreement. "I find there is
scant respect for others' opinions," he said. "The students seem
constantly trying to prove they are right and the other person is wrong,
without realising the other individual too is entitled to his/her
He says, there is a domineering attitude, hard to quash in the
absence of an adult during heated conversations. "I believe, parents
need to be more mindful of how they communicate, not just with their
children but with each other. Children learn a lot from what they see,
more than what their parents say," he said.
(*Names have been changed to shield identity)