Liberty, 16 and Sofia, 17, have been with me this week on work experience. As they are the same age as the teenagers involved, I asked them to respond to this news piece. Their comments are below…
Happy slapping is “the practice of attacking, especially slapping, an unsuspecting passer-by and filming it with a mobile camera phone, footage of which is then circulated for the amusement of others” (http://dictionary.reference.com/).
Following the incident of the Birmingham “happy slappers”, (reported by the BBC News, 15th July, 2015) it is evident that something needs to be done to prevent these videos of violence and hence public humiliation. In our opinion, criminalisation is indeed the right course of action to take. It is not necessarily the action of someone with any sort of mental or emotional instability who films mild violence and robbery, but that of a young teenager who has grown up in a society ever more dependent on social media and the ability to share everything that everybody does. One would think that the possibilities to get recognition and attention on social media would be enough with ‘selfies’ and ‘video blogs’, but perhaps there has been so much now that has been shared and made viral that these young girls felt the need to do something even more extreme in order to be recognised.
Other possible lines of action that could be taken against these teenagers could be a warning, grossly flooding the media with what the girls did, or even offering them professional mental health care by default, but it is our belief that these measures would do nothing to help prevent any possible future instances such as this one, as these reactions are not measures to be feared, or perhaps measures that would not be feared by the youth of today.
A warning would merely act as an invitation to repeat the extreme actions of violence. Infiltration of the media could potentially give the girls exactly what they wanted (attention and recognition), and professional consultations alone would be a small price to pay for the crimes they committed. In criminalising these ‘happy slapping’ videos, it is not only forcing the young girls from Birmingham to face the consequences of their actions by being sentenced in a juvenile detention centre, but also sends out a warning to the rest of the nation: adolescents, adults and children alike who feel the need to carry out attacks such as this one, regardless of their motivations, will be punished.
In doing this, it will hopefully not only save innocent victims from unnecessary trauma, but will push the younger generations to think of more creative ways of getting their voices heard, as opposed to their mugshots seen.