Numerous charges have been filed after a video showing a mob of children ganging up on an autistic boy, restraining him, and stripping him nude from the waist down was uploaded to social media.
In a particularly disturbing set of events, an act of bullying took an even darker turn when a woman coerced a group of children to sexually abuse a mentally disabled boy. The situation took place in the middle of the day at a Berdan Grove Park in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and it has sparked a national outcry due to its shocking nature.
WABC-TV reports that police were notified of the incident after a video of the partially-nude underage victim spread across social media. The video in question shows a terrified 14-year-old autistic boy sobbing as he is cornered by a group of children. Authorities stated that a 13-year-old boy held the victim in place as a 10-year-old boy pulled down the victim’s pants and underwear to expose his genitals.
Police confirmed that 19-year-old Alis Fidrya and a 16-year-old girl, who remains unnamed for legal purposes, recorded the incident and uploaded the video to social media apps Snapchat and TikTok. The disturbing clip was then shared and viewed by an unknown number of social media users.
Fidrya was charged with 2 counts of harassment, cyber harassment, and invasion of privacy. The 16-year-old girl has been charged as a juvenile with harassment, cyber harassment, and invasion of privacy. Both the 13-year-old boy and the 10-year-old boy will be charged as juveniles with harassment.
Citizens were outraged over the incident, and many wondered why those involved weren’t charged with any sex-related crimes. Both the mayor and the deputy mayor of Fair Lawn, who has a son on the autism spectrum, expressed that they were deeply troubled by the incident.
“What’s really disturbing is at that park.. that’s an Access For All playground that this community invested a lot of money in to be especially welcoming to those with special needs,” Mayor Kurt Peluso said.
Additionally, the school district posted a letter to local parents, urging them to not only talk with their children about appropriate and safe social media activity while explaining that they are not at liberty to discuss further details of the incident.
“As many of you know, TikTok is a popular social network app for sharing user-generated videos. The video in question was posted on the For You Page (known as FYP), where content by anyone can be populated on one’s feed. We encourage you to discuss with your child the possible dangers of an open content platform. We are extremely upset and angered by this event. This type of behavior is absolutely unacceptable and I implore you to speak to your children about the dangers of such actions and social media. Upon receiving notification of the video, we immediately contacted the Fair Lawn Police Department. We have zero tolerance for such behavior; however, at this point we must first allow law enforcement to conduct their investigation.”
TikTok has become a hub for graphic, harmful, and even illegal content. Aside from cute animal clips and celebrity videos that skim the surface, the app has a much more rampant dark side that includes the sexualization of children, glorification of abuse, and violent and extreme “challenges.”
In one video, two girls who looked around 12 sang a lewd song about men “trying to get their d*** in my pants”.
Another saw a teenager sending the message “Do you want head?” to everyone in her address book, and a different clip had boys demonstrating which “fingers they use” in a sex act.
There were numerous references to child abuse too, including one with a boy walking into a bedroom with the caption: “Me when I get bored of my girl and remember her little brother.” A sinister voiceover then laughed, “You thought I forgot about you little boy,” – as he reached for his zipper.
Within minutes of scrolling through the social media app, one can view preteen girls engaging in dance moves that simulate sex acts to songs with sexually explicit lyrics. Other videos feature children documenting their own self-harm process and making light of suicide. Many clips encourage children to participate in dangerous “challenges,” which include acts like dancing in the middle of busy streets or ingesting toxic substances and illegal drugs.
Unsurprisingly, the app has become popular with child predators since children, preteens, and teens are the primary users. Of course, because the social media app provides a sense of anonymity as well as short-term celebrity status, impressionable children are compelled to cross boundaries they normally wouldn’t dream of crossing in the real world.
Social media is a wonderful tool that connects individuals all over the world in an instant. However, in the hands of unsupervised children, it can be an incredibly dangerous weapon.