Social Media: Mall brawls show risky behavior

Monday evening, in shopping malls across the country — Connecticut, Tennessee, Ohio and North Carolina — fights broke out that sparked panic and confusion. The series of apparent coincidences largely involved teenagers who brought social media mob mentality to very real, public situations.

After several arrests, a few injuries and some other consequences, the brawls were stopped by law enforcement and mall security in the various locations. It was only then that police realized the reports of shots fired (at more than one location) were unfounded. The sounds turned out to have been things like falling chairs in a food court, or slamming doors at exits.

But most of the young people involved have no idea, of course, what an actual gun shot sounds like; so they were afraid. This was after the fearlessness of being part of what they thought was a massive, anonymous social media movement began to fade.

The reason it happened in four states on the same evening is a bit of a mystery. That it happened at all is a huge concern. Kids unmonitored by parents who are also sucked into their electronic devices, who have not been made to understand personal accountability, and are living increasingly in a virtual world that has little resemblance to, but apparently much influence on reality, do not understand how dangerous their behavior can be.

They do not understand the harm they can do to themselves and others. And, it seems, there is no one to teach them.

Mid-Ohio Valley parents should use the example of these fights to remind their kids of the dangers of following the crowd, even if it seems as though they are doing so only in the virtual/social media realm.