Nadia Kabir Barb
Imagine you are walking down the street somewhere in London, maybe carrying your shopping bags home from an afternoon spent trawling the shops. Or maybe you are taking a stroll in the park admiring the serenity of your surroundings in another part of England. In fact how about if you are just sitting at the bus stop waiting for a bus, minding your own business. Then out of nowhere, you are accosted by a teenager with a mobile phone aimed at you, recording your reaction while another one jumps out from behind and slaps you or whacks you on the head with a rolled up newspaper. You would probably think that this exercise of visualising such a scenario was a waste of your time and a rather repugnant image to say the least. However, for the general public in the UK, this kind of act is not unheard of and is growing day by day. In other words, you have just been initiated into the disturbing and at times violent world of "happy slapping". A happy slap describes the appalling practice of slapping another teenager or passer-by or punching a complete stranger in the face or head while an accomplice records the unpleasant incident, usually using their mobile phone video technology. The distasteful video clip is then shared around the perpetrator's classmates or peers via wireless technologies such as Bluetooth.
Still hard to believe that such mindless anti social behaviour exists and also distressing that mobile phones can take on such an alarming role but sadly this kind of disruptive behaviour is now a reality in the UK and what is more frightening is that it is done mostly for fun. This abhorrent youth craze "happy slapping" was first reported in London about six months ago, but recently seems to be spreading like wild fire and is now becoming a nationwide phenomenon. Bullying has always been an age old problem and many schools have reported that the use of mobile phones during school hours have led to increased bullying i.e. sending rude and offensive messages via SMS or negative manipulation of pictures taken on camera phones using desktop imaging software and then sending them to other classmates for a laugh. To try and avoid this kind of high tech bullying, some schools have banned the use of mobile phones altogether. But statistics suggest that a staggering 5.5m children under the age of 16 possess their own mobile phone. In fact the latest spate of "happy slapping" accentuates the potential for mobile misuse.
In London alone there have already been several arrests linked with the craze. And as the rage has spread from London to all across England, the happy slapping attacks have also become more menacing, with an escalating number of violent assaults on adult victims. According to the Guardian, in one video clip, labelled Bitch Slap, a youth approaches a woman at a bus stop and punches her in the face. In another, Knockout Punch, a group of boys wearing uniforms are shown leading another boy across an unidentified school playground before flooring him with a single blow to the head. Not exactly the type of recreational activity you expect your teenager to be participating in. But with the growing number of mobile phones in circulation amongst teenagers and the numerous accessories built into the phones nowadays, it has made acts such as these hard to monitor by either parents or teachers.
Another particularly violent and sickening example of the extent of these attacks, is when Becky Smith, a 16 year old girl was ambushed by a gang of teenagers as she walked home from a friend's house. She subsequently suffered serious injuries to the head and temporary paralysis and spent two days in hospital before going home. The sad irony was that Becky's brother 13-year-old Craig, was shown the video by a fellow student at his school. It is no wonder that Becky, a victim of this so--called happy slapping, is now terrified of going back to school and is trying to take her GCSEs on her own as she endeavours to win a place at college to study drama. Her mother, Georgina Smith, branded the attack "horrendous" and "sickening".
Not all the attacks are as violent as the one on Becky and the victim may be left with a battered and bruised ego rather than any major physical injury but it is a gross violation on ones social and civil rights to be attacked by anyone for any reason and if these assaults are recorded on camera or uploaded on the internet, then the offender/s can be prosecuted for harassment and assault. In the opinion of a growing number of people, happy slappers should be dealt with swiftly and severely to try and deter others from participating in similar acts.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005