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Teen Shoplifting a National Epidemic?

Updated on June 2, 2012

The National Association for Shoplifter Prevention (2006) reports that 1 out of every 11 people are shoplifters. If I do a current head count of my Facebook friends that means 34 of the people I know are shoplifters. In these tough economic times more people are turning to shoplifting as a means of getting the things they want… but actually that is not true. The economy has little effect on shoplifters. The reality is that people are stealing for a variety of reasons but, usually they are doing it because they think they will get away with it.

While some people believe shoplifters are all teens, this is not the case. However, the NASP reports that teens account for 25% of all shoplifting cases. The reality of teen shoplifting is that parents could have to pay fines, court costs, and damages for teen shoplifting. How do parents curb the urge for teens to steal? We can start with the obvious, if your child comes home with new things you did not purchase then it’s time to talk. DO NOT BELIEVE WILD STORIES ABOUT WHERE THE NEW ITEMS CAME FROM. High school friends are not Santa and they do not rain presents on your child.

Teens are especially susceptible to peer pressure. If you know where your child is then this should not be a problem. Teens who are allowed to roam free with their friends who drive are twice as likely to be involved in illegal activity. That said, I have seen cases where a parent walked in to the store with the teen and the teen stole things while separated from the parent, without the parents knowledge.

More than ever teens are feeling the push to fit in and dress like everyone else. Clothes are not cheap and as any parent can attest it is not easy to stay on top of the teen fashion train. Children should be taught to admire traits in others, not clothes. The more children buy into the idea of material worth, the greater the chance they will be calling you from a holding cell.

Know your child’s friends. Teens from low income homes that have high dollar clothes and electronics may be a sign that the teen is already stealing and may talk your child into doing the same. Once a person starts’ shoplifting it is difficult to stop even if they are caught (NASP, 2006). Shoplifting can become as habit forming as drugs (NASP, 2006). For this reason it is important to talk to your child about shoplifting before you get a phone call.

Teens are often a target of security in retail chains because; they are easier and safer to stop. For this reason teens should not think for a second that they are not being watched every second. The reality is that retailers are wise to the methods of shoplifting used by teens, while teens may think they are getting away with something, chances are good that their theft is being recorded or documented.

Another way to gauge a teen’s attitude about shoplifting is to watch a video of a shoplifter with your teen and see the reaction. If your teen does not think it’s wrong or acts strange when you show them the video, something may be amiss. You know your child. Behaviors that are not in keeping with the teen’s normal behavior may be signals something is going wrong.

Teach teens the value of earning money for the things they want. My oldest son thanked me the other day for making him work for what he wanted. At one point he wanted a PlayStation, so he washed vehicles to pay for a PlayStation. He took very good care of the items because, he worked for them. Believe me when I say that I thought he would never appreciate the parenting, but eventually he did.

From one parent to another it is always important to stay connected to your child. Teens are testing the waters of adulthood on a daily basis. Just as your teenager may think they know everything when talking to you, they think the same thing when they are away from you. It never occurs to them that they will get caught or that you will have to pay standard court fines on top of restitution and damages. This happens with even the best of kids so look for those signs and be aware.


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