Social media and group violence: a parent's guide

Advice for parents on the rise of viral fight videos online

Social media is great for celebrating moments from your life – everything from being with friends and keeping in touch with family to filming your cat being cute.

But it can also capture the darker moments – those that you wish you'd never become involved in.

Sadly, some children have found themselves caught up in violence, such as a street fight, or being bullied by a group of people, and it’s been captured on camera, shared online and gone viral.

Other pupils willingly film each other fighting and upload the videos to social media accounts devoted to showing images and videos of the fights.[1] It’s been referred to as ‘Fight Club for children’.

The craze is reminiscent of the 'happy slapping' trend in the early 2000s, when some teenagers filmed others punching and slapping victims and then shared them on their mobile phones.

Before social media, rumours of fights may have spread across a school year group, or maybe even a whole school, but now, more people can become involved more quickly. And it can help people plan and organise these sort of ‘events’ or activities.

‘Social media is changing things,’ acknowledged Colin James, founder of charity Gangs Unite in The Daily Telegraph. ‘It used to be word of mouth but now when people talk about it on social media it attracts so many others.’[2]

What can parents do?

If your child has shared the footage

Let your child know the dangers of sharing footage of fights online. ​It's easy to get caught up in the excitement of an incident, but encourage your child to think before they share news of planned fights, or images of ones that have already taken place. As well as encouraging people to join in violent situations, potential future employers or trainers would not look favourably on a young person who had shared those images online.

What if your child has been involved?

After you’ve established they’re safe, have a serious conversation with them about why they joined in and the consequences of being involved.

Try not to seem too accusatory or upset as this may prevent them from opening up to you. 

If there is footage of your child in a fight

Whether they’re the perpetrator, or the one being targeted, it isn’t something you want online for other people to see.

Find out who posted the content, and ask them to take it down. If the incident is linked to school, they can help you do this. If the person who posted the content is unknown, contact the social media platform to ask them to take it down. Find out how here

It may be that you can’t control the spread of the footage. If that is the case, support your child as much as you can. As with all bad experiences, there are lessons to be learnt.

‘Good plans usually focus on getting rid of negative influences and avoiding high risk situations’

Make a plan together to help them avoid situations like this in the future. Good plans usually focus on getting rid of negative influences and avoiding high risk situations. Discuss with them how they can spend more time on positive friendships and activities. They can also make sure that they create a positive digital footprint to counter the effects of any negative posts about them that exist online.

If you feel your child needs professional help with anger or other problems

Resorting to physical aggression as a way of dealing with a problem, or fighting just for the ‘fun’ of it, may point to a deeper emotional issue. You may want to ask them if there’s anything else in their lives that’s worrying them.

Remind them that it’s very important they find other ways of dealing with problems, such as communication, negotiation and compromise, as carrying this violent behaviour into adulthood could get them into serious trouble in the future.

Young Minds has some good advice on anger, aggression and violence in young people and what parents can do to help their children.

Further reading

Creating a positive digital footprint

Help! There’s film of my child fighting online

If your child has been filmed fighting, report it to social media platform it appears on

How to contact social media sites

 

The advice published on Parent Info is provided by independent experts in their field and not necessarily the views of Parent Zone or NCA-CEOP.

First published: February 2016

Updated: May 2018

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