Violent attacks on school children that have been filmed and shared on social media are being investigated by police.
A number of ‘fight club’-style profiles have been set up on popular app Instagram encouraging users to share footage of youngsters fighting on the Fylde coast.
One, which is the subject of a police investigation, had more than 5,500 followers and had posted almost 50 clips, all purportedly filmed in and around Blackpool.
While some of the videos, which have been seen by The Gazette, look like they have been pre-arranged, others appear to involve unwilling victims being attacked while others record them using their mobile phones.
One such video, filmed in Grange Park, showed a young boy in school uniform being assaulted as he walked along the street.
One concerned mum reported the account, which The Gazette is not naming and which has since been removed by Instagram, to police and to Instagram, who initially replied saying it did not breach any of its rules.
The whistleblower, who did not want to be named, said: “Some (of the children) look like they are willing to fight but some are being jumped.
“There’s some on a bus, and a girl having her head hit on concrete.
“As a mum I know I would be devastated if I had to find out my child was being bullied like this.”
She added that she believed the account had been set up around a week ago.
She said she and a number of other concerned parents had contacted Instagram trying to get the account shut down.
“Some may be old videos,” she added. “But if it stops one child being bullied I will take it as far as I can.”
Others videos shared on the account in question included a number of fights, watched by large groups, in public places and one involved a fight between a young boy and girl on a bus packed with schoolchildren in uniform. One had been viewed more than 6,000 times.
The account actively encouraged users to give a ‘shout out’ and send in videos to be uploaded to an audience of thousands.
Many of the comments below the clips glorified the actions of the aggressors and in some cases were derogatory to the victims.
While they are no longer publicly accessible, a number of other accounts, with smaller followings and a handful of posts between them, still exist. Instagram took down five accounts with similar names after reports from concerned parents but other remain. Some new ones have been set up and posted videos since then.
Most of these are private and require permission to view but one that was publicly accessible and claimed to be based in Blackpool showed a fight between two boys in a car park that was posted at the weekend. It had been viewed more than 600 times.
Another, which had around 150 followers yesterday but which had yet to post a single video or image, promised videos would be uploaded ‘tonight’ – although it was not clear how long ago the account was set up.
Jake Adams, the former member of Youth Parliament for Blackpool, said: “I think it is getting more common.
“In my opinion, some young people, when they are surrounded by one another they can get quite giddy, for want of a better word, and that comes out over social media and can have consequences that impact them for the rest of their lives. It can affect them and stay with them for years to come.”
Gordon Marsden, MP for Blackpool South, said: “The problem with things like Instagram is they do not come under the same controls as other forms of social media, so that’s something the information commissioner should look at.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Police confirmed it had received a complaint about one of the accounts and officers were trying to trace its owner.
Instagram confirmed it has deleted five accounts encouraging people to share clips of youths fighting on the Fylde coast.
The company said it did not allow posts encouraging violence.
A spokesman added: “We removed this account as soon as it was reported to us, and we encourage people who come across this type of content to report it via our in-app reporting tools. ”
Four other accounts with similar names were also removed.