Bullying video by NJ teenagers sparks outrage and concern
On February 3, 14-year-old Adriana Kuch ended her life two days after she was attacked at a New Jersey high school and the attack was recorded and shared on social media. One clip shows her classmates kicking, hitting and pulling Kuch’s hair in the school hallway. Not only was she physically harmed, her father says she was humiliated, and then mocked and molested.
“They just kept going after they attacked them,” Michael Kuch told CBS on Feb. 10. “They kept sending her videos. Then they would get screenshots of the videos because the videos kept getting removed, and then they would write nasty comments on them.”
The students involved, who are juveniles, have since been charged and a school district chief resigned. The video, which is now circulating everywhere on TikTok and Twitter, is causing outrage across the country. However, experts warn against engaging with this type of content even if your intent when viewing the footage is not malicious.
“When spread in uncontrolled and unregulated settings like social media, it opens victims, families, teachers and communities to other forms of cyberbullying,” he saysTristin Engels, Licensed Forensic Psychologist.
“Your family, friends and everyone involved in this tragedy are being forced to watch this video and it is traumatizing.”
It’s hard to see. But can it be necessary for change?
The one minute video is a tough watch. Kuch’s father knows that.
In a now-deleted Facebook post, he said he shared screenshots from the video to get justice for his daughter.
“I feel like I have to do everyone’s work,” he wrote at the time. “These platforms don’t allow the videos to be posted publicly (which I believe is correct)… If you look at the videos I have, they laugh as they talk about what they’re going to do at the beginning of the video.”
As awareness of the tragedy has spread online (#justiceforadrianakuch has over 6 million views on TikTok), Engels says video evidence like this can be a successful wake-up call to take action. In this case, the school district was under investigation into how violence and bullying was handled on its campus, according to NBC News.
“On the one hand … it can be helpful in creating a learning experience for our youth and their families, and seeing the consequences that perpetrators face can offer hope to victims of bullying.” But on the other hand, circulating graphic, violent contents of an attack lead to renewed traumatization of their loved ones.
People have “online disinhibition,” Engels says, which means they can “say cruel and harmful things on social media with a degree of anonymity, which sadly Adriana was already exposed to at school and online.”
“Maybe this video will continue.”
Why do teens post this type of content on social media?
Experts say platforms like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok are particularly appealing to teens who look to their peers for clues as to what’s cool, crave positive validation from their friends, and are more prone to risk-taking behaviors, especially when they know they are they are to be observed by those whose assent they seek.
“Most adults understand the concept of a digital footprint. Just like what goes online stays online,” said Gwenn O’Keeffe, pediatrician and expert on digital media and internet safety. However, younger teens are often less good at weighing risks than adults: When peers are praised through likes and comments for engaging in risky behavior, it can be disinhibiting.
“They might see something and think, ‘Oh, I’m just going to video it,’ without thinking about the consequences,” she says.
Bullying has real, even fatal, consequences, as recent tragedy has shown. Teens who are being bullied may feel isolated or insecure, both physically and emotionally, as well as helpless and hopeless.
That’s why experts say more anti-bullying action is needed – from both parents and schools. It should start lobbying to ditch social media sooner, emphasizing that even online comments can do real harm.
“Schools need to do a better job,” says O’Keeffe. “You need to talk to students about just being a good person, being kind to one another, and explaining the difference between conflict and bullying or assault.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call or text the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day, 988, or chat online at 988lifeline.org.
Featuring: Alia Dastagir, USA TODAY