We need to talk about ‘swarming.’ - The Orca

We need to talk about ‘swarming.’

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Videos of kids violently “swarming” other kids are shocking – but are they shocking enough for us to do something? Jody Vance says yes.

No, it is not naivety to think that we can stop violence among kids. We can.

It’s like a #WeToo moment. Pink shirts and school mantras are important, sure, but they aren’t changing kid culture.

Perhaps it’s just my current reality of being a mom with a kid growing up in a time of social media sparking bizarre behaviour (think: Tide pod challenge). Collectively, we all have lots to worry about when it comes to how some kids push boundaries – but what can we do about the growing fad of teen swarming?

When did it become okay, or even cool enough to post about, attacks on one’s school peers?

Where is the Middle on how grownups respond to these “incidents” — incidents that should called what they are: assaults.

Some kids are being lured, or luring others, to remote spots to be swarmed. In some cases it’s a trusted friend. Other times the attack is unprovoked, coming from kids victims don’t even know.

Somewhere the system of checks and balances is broken.

Kids attacking kids – and finding it entertaining – requires reflection and impactful consequence. Left unchecked, this brutal behaviour sets up a toxic future.

Fights between kids are nothing new. There was a time where these things happened with zero proof — crying “not my fault!” worked. But now that kids have phones in hand, we actually see them.

The evidence was not available, and so any punishment fit the inability to confirm facts. Today, social media has changed that, and the seemingly unquenchable want for attention of any kind feeds the frenzy.

Now that we’ve seen it, our reaction needs to adjust.

The mano-a-mano, old school, “by the bike racks” of yesteryear is unacceptable teen culture. What starts at the bike racks blooms in the boardroom.

Growing up, we all witnessed violence. I’ve witnessed fights, and felt helpless to do anything more than find the nearest adult to tell.

It’s on parents to set the right example, isn’t it? But some families foster a mindset of superiority by intimidation and violent physical interaction as normal.

When the videos surfaced of the most recent altercation (assault) in Surrey, my first thought was: will there be a meaningful consequence? My second thought: where are the parents of the attackers?

Then a parent came forward and accused the victim of “goading” her son into violence. What?

As the tides change in society, especially surrounding bullying and toxic behaviour of physical dominance, the Middle needs to revisit the fallout for young offenders.

If you are a parent whose kid has been a part of swarm, the punishment at home should be severe — there shouldn’t be a mode that sees “protection at all cost.”

Yes, I’ve heard the arguments of “no legal action” for kids causing havoc might “ruin their lives, their future.” What if inaction ruins them now…and later?

In a social media-driven society, public shaming has proven to be a strong deterrent for kids and teens, even multi-millionaire YouTubers.

Growing up believing you are above the law, and that societal rules are made for others – that’s how we stoke the fires of hoodlums and organized crime. The biggest or strongest kid shouldn’t be the default leader. The biggest, nastiest bully should not rule.

Let’s talk about the “uninvolved” person filming these incidents, without intervention. Should they not be held to account as an accomplice? How about stiff fines or penalties of some sort of on-the-record consequence?

Obviously, I’m no lawyer. But I am a parent, and would absolutely allow my tween to be held to account in any violent charge.

When it comes to kids who think assault is anything but absolutely unacceptable, we have to start somewhere.

The new coddling of wrongdoers is not working. Those kids wear pink shirts, and repeat back the “inclusiveness and kindness” mantras. They have yoga class instead of detention.

The kids who attack a single victim en masse should be considered a threat to any school. There should be documentation by administrators and acknowledgement by parents, that follows throughout the system and beyond.

Extreme, perhaps, but what a deterrent that might prove to be. All too many teens know that under a certain age, they are basically untouchable.

Our rules and laws need to grow up as fast as kids “these days” are growing up. Parents need to open their eyes to the human toll taken when their troubled teen chooses a path of violence.

Consequences of violence need to be greater than a wrist slap and “as you were.”


Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.