Parents concerned over social media ‘fight videos’
CHATHAM-KENT, ONT. -- A series of fight videos being posted to Instagram accounts in the Chatham-Kent area has now been taken down.
Many of the accounts were taken down Friday after CTV alerted representatives with the parent company, Facebook, about a number of accounts featuring violent fights involving minors.
“These are kids flailing the heck out of one another, being spurned on by cries from the crowd to beat him, kick him and punch him. It’s awful,” said CTV’s public safety analyst, Chris Lewis.
Prior to the removal of some of the content Friday, there were dozens of videos posted on multiple Instagram accounts — featuring similar acts of violence in Chatham-Kent. One mother who spoke with CTV on the condition of anonymity learned through a friend that her 13-year-old son was featured in one of the videos.
“It’s something you don’t want to see as a parent,” said the mom, whose identity is being protected to avoid identifying her teenage son.
“You’re supposed to keep your kids safe and he wasn’t.”
She said she didn’t find out about the video until it was online for an entire month.“The fact that my child had to hide it because he was scared to tell me and scared of what might happen to him from other children... It makes me sick to my stomach,” the mom said.
Another area mother also saw some of the videos, which are posted under anonymous Instagram accounts without user biographies. “It’s violent, it’s very violent,” said Ferren Ytsma. “That’s why its so hard for us as adults to watch it.”
Ytsma recognized local parks in the videos, but then saw her friend’s teenage son featured in another — and felt compelled to tell her.
“They have people watching them, and people cheering them on, so it’s not only that you’re scared for what’s going to happen to you, but there’s peer pressure to be a certain way, act a certain way and that everybody’s going to see it,” Ytsma said.
Her friend, Khoral Faubert, learned of the accounts — and watched some to make sure her son wasn’t involved. She’s worried about the implications for the youth — after the recording stops.
“I don’t know what happened after, I don’t know how that kid felt, I don’t know if they can go home and talk to their parents about it, if they sought medical help, if they had friends to comfort them,” Faubert said. “All those thoughts went through my head.”
A number of area parents tell CTV News they reported the videos as inappropriate to Instagram — because they encourage violence and bullying and want them taken down.
“How are you not realizing these are minors engaging in violent fights, where people are getting hurt?” asked Ytsma. “I just don’t understand. It’s really contradicting.”
The initial response they got from Instagram: “We found this account likely doesn’t go against our Community Guidelines. If you think we made a mistake, please report it again.”
“I think for Instagram or any social media platform to not view this as concerning and violating some sort of standard is not right,” said Lewis.
But Friday afternoon, Instagram sent an email saying the accounts had been disabled as they infringe on the site’s bullying and harassment policies.
“Keeping young people safe on Instagram is hugely important to us and we do not allow content or behaviour that puts the privacy and safety of minors at risk. We have removed the accounts from our platform,” wrote the Facebook spokesperson.
Safety analyst Lewis said it’s unclear whether these videos are consensual or criminal, but believes the best way to connect the dots is to get police involved.
“Because it’s going to spurn similar acts around the world where kids are going to say wow, look at that kid, look at all the attention he got, we’re going to do it now too. So how far is it going to expand,” said Lewis.
Chatham-Kent Police declined an interview until next week, but said they’re aware of the videos. They said some have already been investigated and they’re looking into the matter further.
“At what point does it get worse, someone brings a stick, rock or a whatever into it, brass knuckles?” Asked Lewis. “This needs to be nipped in the bud somehow or another.”