Child psychiatrist sheds light on recent school threats

Posted at 10:32 PM, Apr 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-01 22:32:14-04

WEST MICHIGAN - Some West Michigan school districts have dealt with alarming threats this week.  Four districts in Calhoun County alone, either closing school or going into lock down after seeing social media threats involving guns and bombs.

It has a lot of parents asking questions, including why would children act like this?

Each case has its own specifics, making each one different. This means there is no clear-cut answer as to why this happens.

Doctor Kelly Blankenship is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health. She was able to explain what factors may lead a child to making these decisions and what we can do to prevent them.

“There are a lot of different motivations for these types of things" said Dr. Kelly Blankenship. "It can be as simple as just wanting humiliation or thinking it is funny to do that type of thing. They could have been humiliated and they are going to get back at someone. They might be wanting power or wanting control. It could just be because they are angry. There are all kinds of motivations for it.”

Dr. Blankenship says the perpetrators often come from broken homes, show a history of physical or sexual abuse, are loners or have a small group of friends and don't see eye to eye with adults.

"Sometimes they are seeking control in other ways because it give them some sense of being able to determine what is going to happen to them" said Blankenship.

With a number of these events occurring back to back just miles away, copycats can come into play.

"There seems to be a big copycat effect, so when there is an incident of a school shooting or a school threat of a bombing or something and then it is highly publicized and gets a lot of media attention, then what they have noticed is right after that similar ones or other threats to schools will pop up in different communities" said Blankenship.

Blankenship says it also has a lot to do with a child's brain, specifically their frontal lobe. It is responsible for impulse control and isn't fully developed until you are 25 years old.

"The frontal lobe helps you with your decision-making and your ability to plan and figure out consequences and impulse control" said Blankenship. That is not fully formed until your 25. It is not an excuse for bad decisions, but it does make it more likely that you are going to make the poor decisions.”

So how can parents and schools approach these problems? It starts with getting your kids involved and having positive role models.

"Kids need to feel connected" said Blankenship. "They need to feel connected to a family member and really need an older adult they can kind of idealize and take those good qualities and make that a part of themselves. Kids also need to get involved in extracurricular activities, like clubs and sports. It makes them feel more connected to their school.

Dr. Blankenship said another important factor is getting kids involved with other kids and setting up core communication because kids will likely listen to other kids. If they are apart of the solution they will want it to work.