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Petty theft in schools: The Invisible Shadow Affecting Students' Lives

Updated: May 22



It is not uncommon, returning from a field trip or from the school yard or from some other activity, for students to discover that their pocket money is missing from their bag. In fact, it is so common that almost 39% of students, according to a survey carried out under the Erasmus+ funded Future Integrity Leaders programme, have experienced or witnessed incidents of petty theft.


Often the attitude of teachers and parents is to dismiss, ignore and disregard such incidents as insignificant. However, as far as students who have been 'victimised' are concerned, beyond the tangible loss of possessions, petty theft can have a profound effect on their emotional, academic, and social lives. The invasion of personal space and subsequent feelings of insecurity and can create an environment where learning becomes secondary to safety concerns.


On the other hand, children who engage in petty theft face problems in their academic careers, they also may be isolated from their surroundings and may even get into trouble with the law from an early age.


Parents and educational staff need to show understanding and sensitivity in dealing with children and teenagers involved in such acts. An understanding of the possible reasons for such illegal behavior can make it easier to address the issue and help develop effective resolution strategies. The most common reasons why children engage in acts of petty theft are peer influence/ pressure, family problems, jealousy of objects or money that their peers may have, and low self-esteem.


But what can parents do to prevent or deal with such behaviors and manage them?


Initially it is important to approach the teenager with caution, overreactions and not dealing with the issue firmly can bring the opposite of the desired results. It is important to establish channels of communication with the child, so that you can discuss the causes of the behavior and explain the necessity of taking responsibility and the need for there to be some kind of 'price' for the action. Such a ‘price’ could be the return of the money or objects stolen and the deprivation of certain privileges enjoyed by the teen, such as the use of video games.


It is also particularly important for parents to be aware of the friendships that their teenage children have and to promote the good choices of friends, without being overbearing or critical, as this can have the opposite effect.


Finally, cooperation between parents and teachers is crucial in cases of petty theft. It is important to have open communication between them, to form an alliance to prevent or effectively manage such incidents.


In conclusion, incidents of petty theft in schools are a common problem that affects the lives of many students. Dealing with petty theft requires sensitivity, patience and firmness from parents and teaching staff. Finally, it is important for adults to understand the reasons that lead teens  to commit such acts in order to address the problems at their roots.

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