Learn How Kids Embrace, Consume and Socialize Using Technology

Bad Combo: Teens + Flash Mobs + Violence + Technology

By Parenting Today's KidsMarch 28, 2012

Flash mobs used to be synonymous with entertainment, humor, and artistic expression. The term “flash mob” was first coined in 2003 and it referred to peaceful and often humorous public gatherings where participants would get together to perform silly tasks – like mass dance routines or street pillow fights – and then quickly disperse. These types of flash mobs gained widespread popularity as a new type of creative entertainment.

In recent years, however, flash mobs have taken a darker, more sinister meaning. Some teens are using technology and social networking sites – like Facebook and Twitter – to coordinate crimes and violent acts. These so-called flash mobs can commit all types of crimes – mass shoplifting sprees, armed robberies, rapid-fire assaults, muggings, and general chaos. Flash mob crimes primarlily have been perpetrated by teenagers and young adults.

The violent, criminal flash mobs that have sprouted up in the last few years have proven that technology and the Internet is a double-edged sword. The Internet and social networking sites allow us to be connected with people all over the globe, but criminals are using this technology to wreak  havoc on society.

Collective violence isn’t a new concept, but the technology being used to organize it is. With more than 175 million Twitter users and more than 800 million Facebook users, violent flash mobs can communicate and assemble a large number of people at a moment’s notice.

  • On Twitter, organizing a flash mob is simple. Teens can tweet about their plans, and use a hash tag (words that are prefixed with the pound symbol (#); it’s very similar to category tags on a blog) to keep track of the event. Their Twitter followers can “retweet” and share the news about the flash mob event with their own followers. In a very short time, violent flash mobs can easily assemble a group of people who are interested and willing to go along with whatever crime is planned.
  • On Facebook, the flash mob organizer can create a Facebook event – in which he or she enters all the details (when to meet, what time, and what the flash mob will be doing). He or she can invite Facebook friends to RSVP, and those friends can invite others, and so on.

In addition to using social media, flash mobs also can be organized using other technologies – including email and text messaging.

  • When a flash mob is organized via email, the organizer will send out an email with the event details to his or her contacts. Those contacts can forward the email to others who may be interested. This is a slower way of organizing, but it can be effective for smaller flash mobs.
  • When social networking sites aren’t used, text messaging is another quick and easy way to organize a flash mob. All teenagers and young adults text, and text messages easily can be forwarded to others. Some of the newer smartphones don’t limit your character count, so text messages can be longer in length, as well.

All of this technology makes flash mobs easier to gather together. Younger law enforcement officers are monitoring social media more closely to help control the problem, but many experts believe it’s a losing battle. These violent flash mobs may be caused by the current state of the economy, and possibly poor parenting. Criminalizing technology in an effort to stop violent flash mobs is a losing battle for legislators, because it restricts freedom of speech.

As parents, we need to stay on top of how our kids are using technology to help guide and encourage them to make good choices … both online and off.


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