The question of when one can be held to be responsible as an adult is a vexed on in the law. In medieval times, one reached adulthood upon attaining the age of 7. There was no concept of the teenager until recent times.
What happens when children kill? There was a tragic case in the paper today of a 11 year old boy in Britain who was killed in a shooting. The suspects are a 14 year old and an 18 year old. I lived in Manchester at the time that toddler Jamie Bulger was abducted and killed by two 10 year old boys. It was an awful case, and one really wondered what could be done with the two perpetrators. Did they understand the gravity of what they had done? Surely they knew that to hurt another child was wrong, and that to kill another child on purpose was gravely wrong? Should they be treated as adults by the law? If so, would this create very little chance of them rehabilitating and become normal members of society? Could (or should) they be allowed to become normal members of society?
Children should know that such an action is wrong. If a killing is accidental, that’s another thing entirely, but if a killing is premeditated, then I tend to think that it should be treated very seriously. Of course, it does depend on the age somewhat, but I tend to think that children should know that killing another child is wrong from a very early age. It can get confusing when a child sees the world news and sees suicide bombers, wars, violence etc. And then there’s action movies, where the hero kills baddies all the time. Many of the boys in my primary school used to watch the Mad Max movies, and related to me in gory detail how this guy had a metal boomerang which cut peoples’ heads off. As a 10 year old, it freaked me out (which I’m sure was the intention of the boys who told me – nothing better than shocking a girl at that age). But that’s a bit different to killing another child in cold blood, and I’m somewhat wary of hysteria over movies and music being blamed for bad actions.