In the popular imagination – for which read our imaginations as manipulated by Hollywood and bad journalism – Bonnie and Clyde are the ultimate "evil kids". Clyde Barrow was first arrested aged 17, but was offending long before. Once inside America’s prison system, he was sexually assaulted. Clyde killed his attacker in self-defence. That was it: his life was effectively ruined before 20.

At 15, Bonnie Parker married habitual criminal Roy Thornton. A whip-smart girl, she had zero prospects of fulfilling her potential. The life that lay ahead was one of drudgery, running after some useless man or other just to survive, and raising children. Bonnie was primed to rebel.

Neither Bonnie nor Clyde would ever have nice things, or the happy lives they longed for, just as everyone longs for happy lives and nice things. They were young, resentful and lost. So when Bonnie eventually met Clyde in 1930, they were combustible, ready to blow from the friction of that first encounter.

Aside from being Texans, they shared one thing: poverty. Like many of the infamous "Public Enemies" of the 1930s, they were born with nothing, lived with nothing, and destined to die with nothing. The Public Enemy era – and its gunmen and gunwomen like John Dillinger, Ma Baker and Pretty Boy Floyd – didn’t just happen to coincide with the Great Depression, the Public Enemy era was a consequence of the Great Depression.

Read more: Scotland's violent crime wave shows just how sick a society we now are

Two huge tides pulled at America’s soul in the late 1920s and early 1930s: the terror of financial ruin – bread queues, soup kitchens, shame, prostitution, theft, begging, disgrace; and unobtainable glamour – the beauty of the silver screen’s gods and goddesses; riches, power, influence and dominance turned into celluloid dreams. Millions found a few hours' solace each day crowding into movie palaces and watching a world they’d never know. It’s a strange sado-masochistic culture: glamour as anaesthetic for those in the gutter; poverty’s psychic wounds staunched by the fantasy of wealth.

Crime doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Crime is a consequence of the society in which we live. Human decisions have social consequences, including our good decisions. When America put its mind to building a nationwide freeway system in the 1950s, nobody, in their worst nightmares, imagined that the mobility and anonymity it created would be exploited by serial killers to evade the law: monstrous men murdering runaways in one state, dumping their bodies in another, and returning to live and work in yet a third.

Today, Scotland – and the rest of Britain, for that matter – is in the midst of yet another moral panic around youth offending. These concerns have good grounds, but bad thinking lies at their heart.

First the good grounds: violence and disruption are indeed blighting schools. Young people are committing crimes of extreme violence. There’s a chilling deadness to how some young people view society. As proof, witness the phenomenon of TikTok "pranksters" who carry out chilling "routines" on their unwitting victims: asking young women in lonely train stations if they want to be killed, or entering family homes without permission. Now the bad thinking: I’ve lived through many of these panics, when society shudders at the actions of children, then seeks to blame children collectively for all wrong-doing. Evidently, most children are good people, not offenders.

Society – especially the press, and the politicians the press runs behind like a barking dog – thinks it is good at pinpointing the causes of "child crime". In truth, all we do is divert attention away from the real causes of youth offending. In the past, society blamed jazz and marijuana. Then Elvis … and marijuana. Then it was punk, video nasties, goths, computer games, rap, drill.

It’s never bad parenting, though, is it? We never consider how out of control adult society has become, while we cast our gaze and rage on to the young. We ask our children to be wise in a society that’s now based on lies, chaos, extremism and hate.

Read more: 'When it comes to violent crime, men and women are no different'

And poverty is never spoken of; no blame ever apportioned to the aching, appalling gulf which exists between the reality of the lives of so many young people and a world of endless social media glamour. Today’s children are trapped between misery and beauty, joy and agony, success and utter defeat, with a relentless inescapability previous generations never experienced.

We live in a land of terrible extremes. On one hand, we’re a nation of food banks, where mothers steal nappies; on the other, the Prime Minister pays £13,000 yearly to heat his private swimming pool. All children have to do to measure the paucity of their lives is tap at a screen and watch today’s gods and goddesses parade the Met Gala red carpet.

We rage at our children for failing to obey "rules", but we celebrate leaders who break rules. We demand respect from children, but the powerful respect nothing. We ask why our children are so disengaged, while we use iPads as childcare.

We locked our children up during pandemic. This isn’t to condemn lockdown. It was horribly necessary. But to simply lock children away without putting in place the mental health care to help them through, or alternative ways for them to live as meaningful and normal a life as possible, is on us, not on them.

A summit is planned in Scotland about the state of violence in schools. Good. That’s needed. Teachers must be empowered to foster good standards of respectful discipline. Clearly, there will be the usual cries from the usual suspects of "bring back the belt". On that moral idiocy, the only fitting comment is: was it the lack of a belt which turned Bonnie and Clyde into killers? You don’t teach kindness and decency through beatings.

Read more: Scotland's greatest criminologist reveals the secret meaning behind serial killers' evil crimes

Here’s a harsh truth that needs said: we’ve broken our own children. The society we built has failed them. Some are now showing us just how badly we’ve failed. Here are some even harsher words: we’ll never acknowledge that truth, nor that poverty and the huge gap between the lives of most children and the wealth and power they see all around them lies at the very heart of the dysfunction affecting modern childhood. Blame lies squarely with the adults in the room.