Editorials

Kids take violence to new extreme

They are all over the Internet, short video clips with titles out of a boxing poster. "Raul vs. Pedro." "Red vs. Robert." "Twinkie vs. Saylor."

But these are not professional fighters. These are kids. High school kids, middle school kids. They punch each other, pound each other, slap, yank, pull, tackle, rip, scratch and kick each other.

And all the time, someone is filming.

Ten Seconds is what some call it, a macho exercise in which children inflict as much pain as they can for 10 seconds. Perhaps the thinking is "you can't get killed in 10 seconds" -- but you sure can do damage.

Recently, a Troy, Mich., middle school student was taken to a hospital after he and two classmates staged their own 10 Seconds routine. They were suspended from school -- because they conducted this violence in the school restroom.

The school restroom?

Yep. And if you go to YouTube, you'll see many more. Filmed on cell phones. Shot in bathrooms. Or in parking lots.

On one video, a big kid chases a smaller kid, spins him, grabs him, lifts him from around the neck and slams him to the ground -- all while another kid tags behind. Not stopping it. Filming it.

Now, fighting as kids is nothing new. I did it. But this is not one of those generation gap issues. There are serious and disturbing differences between the eras.

For one thing, when we fought, there was a reason.

And secondly, no one recorded it. The sickest part of this phenomenon is that anger is not igniting these fights -- fame is. These kids see this as their piece of the Internet pie. YouTube has flattened the Earth into a single stage on which anyone can perform. That is too tempting for kids who are growing up in a "fame is everything" world. They may not be able to act. They may not be able to sing or dance. But anyone can punch.

Or try to. The thing is, once you start hitting someone, anger may not be the catalyst, but it quickly can become the gasoline. And a staged routine can turn to serious violence.

In less than 10 seconds.

The obvious response to this is, "Why don't parents teach their kids that this is wrong?" My guess is many do. My guess is even more are totally unaware of what's going on. Ask yourself this, Mom and Dad: How many YouTube fights have you watched lately?

Well, go online and type "10 seconds" and "fight" and see what comes up. Then, after you watch two teens claw and yank as their shirts ride up and their arms flail wildly, see how many other sometimes longer clips come up. There's one labeled "10 Seconds" that shows kids in a school band room pounding each other between the instruments and the music stands.

How can this go on, you ask? Well, remember, these kids live in a world of mixed martial arts fighting. MMA was created as a way of using anything and everything in a fight. And while it has been cleaned up lately and its practitioners are well-trained, it began with an almost fight-to-the-death mentality.

And that is the approach being mimicked by the 10 Seconds kids who, for the most part, aren't trained or accomplished, or even aware of the consequences.

They are hyped-up kids in a hyped-up world, where doing things for the camera is the only reason to do anything at all. To some of these kids, seeing their name on the side of a YouTube page is a narcotic hit that is addicting.

And so maybe our conversations need to change. Not long ago, a father took his son outside and taught him to hold up his fists, but also said, "Don't hit anyone unprovoked."

Today, we need to say, "Son, YouTube is not worth getting your face bashed in."

You might also remind him that Andy Warhol predicted everyone, one day, would be famous for 15 minutes.

And he was off by 14 minutes and 50 seconds.

Contact Albom at malbom@freepress.com.

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