A 13yo girl 'tortured' and live-streamed fight clubs: We need to talk about what's happening in schools.

On March 11, 2023, a 13-year-old girl was invited to a fake sleepover party, where she was allegedly beaten and tortured for hours by her three “friends”, aged 12, 13, and 14. The accused, who have been charged by QLD police, posted footage of the attack online which was shared by students across Australia through social media.

Across QLD, SA, and NSW there have been multiple reports of kid ‘fight clubs’ emerging. These ‘clubs’ organise brawls and lure crowds of people who watch on, record, and post the violence on social media. 

Some of the ‘fight clubs’ span across multiple schools in a single area, like the recent underground ‘fight clubs’ discovered in QLD.

And, in Warilla, NSW, a Principal has recently sent out an urgent plea to parents and the community after an onslaught of physical fights that had been filmed on their school grounds – with some of the student’s parents showing their support for the brawls.

These incidents, though shocking, are not isolated. They are a symbol of a wider trend: a rise in teenage anti-social behaviour, amplified by social media. 

How big of an issue is this?

This unfortunately isn't something that has been exaggerated in the media for clicks or clout – it's a reality in schools across the country. 

In 2021, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) released figures which showed attacks in NSW public schools had reached a 20-year high, with violence carried out by female students growing 4.6 per cent year on year over the 20 years.


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BOCSAR’s figures have also shown that the amount of Juvenile Offenders of Assault (Non-domestic assault) in NSW, had gone up 3.6 per cent per year for the last four years. And, over in QLD, the QLD Government Statistician Office reported a 30 per cent increase in the rate of assault between 2011 and 2021, and more than one in five offenders of all crime (assault and other) between the ages of 10-19 years in 2021. 

After speaking to current and former teachers, here are some of the reasons why there may be a rise in violent and anti-social behaviour in and around our schools:

Cost of living

Rob*, a former teacher who left the profession following the pandemic, said they are “not surprised by the increase in the level of violence” being seen in their previous school and surroundings. 

He goes on to tell Mamamia that with the cost-of-living crisis, “parents are taking on extra shifts and extra work” and are having to step back from hands-on parenting, particularly in lower socio-economic areas. 


Rob strongly believes that this lack of supervision impacts their ability to manage how their teens are interacting on social media and how they’re spending their free time outside of school.  


If a student searches for school fights or watches videos with violent behaviour, a social media app’s algorithms will continue to push similar content. This is especially true with TikTok’s ‘for you page’. It then becomes a part of their every day and students can end up desensitised to that sort of behaviour. 

Emma*, a current high school teacher in NSW, saw an uncensored video of the girl being tortured in QLD through one of their students who had been sent the footage through Instagram. 

“My student showed me the uncensored video of the attack. All my students had seen it,” she tells Mamamia.

Fran*, another high school teacher in NSW, says TikTok algorithms heavily influence their student's behaviour. They will watch fights on social media and “start their own ‘fight clubs’” because of what they have seen online. 

“Fights are more violent, there is a higher rate of knives being involved,” she shares with Mamamia

A culture of encouraging violence

A letter has recently made the rounds on community Facebook groups and local media outlets from a high school principal discussing this very issue. 

The principal of a high school in Warilla, NSW recently sent out a concerning letter to their parent and caregiver community, writing, “it is a worry when we interview some students involved in a ‘fight’ and their caregivers are saying they gave them permission to ‘fight on’.” 


But, it’s not only parents and caregivers who are encouraging students, it's also their peers. 

“We have some students being arrested on weekends for violence and assault, then returning to class during the week and being hailed as heroes by their classmates,” Fran tells us. 

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COVID sent almost everyone across Australia into different lockdowns and isolation periods. Fran, Emma, and Rob have all said that the groups of students appearing to be the most impacted are the ones who were in COVID lockdowns during their formative years. These groups are currently in Grades 8 and 9. 

“Since COVID, there’s definitely been a rise in violence, I have noticed. Not just violence, but general anti-social behaviour such as bullying, pack mentality, and isolating certain kids,” says Emma. 

“There were boys that were super bubbly beforehand… it’s horrible seeing the impact on their mental health. I saw so many kids shut down,” says Rob. 

Social media

The recurring theme in all these cases is social media. 

Whether it be a lack of supervision while online due to implications from the cost of living, desensitisation because of algorithms, encouraging violence and sharing it online as if it’s something to be proud of, or COVID isolating students and moving them towards more online communication. 


All have one thing that connects them: social media. Despite its unavoidable impact on student behaviour, it’s still an ever-growing beast mysterious to many of us – including teachers operating in schools with students and their phones every day, and the carers 

“[TikTok] is still relatively new to us. A lot of teachers and parents aren't clued into how it works. During school, we don’t always see it. But, mostly it happens outside of school and leads to in-school problems,” says Rob.

What does this mean for our future?

Social media isn’t going anywhere. But, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Awareness is the precursor of a solution, and comprehensive research into behaviour trends at our schools, and why they’re caused, is a possible first step in addressing the bigger issues feeding the rise in anti-social behaviour in students. 

One thing is for certain, it’s a team effort. 

Teachers can only do so much when technology is developing faster than our legal and education systems are, when schools are short-staffed and under-funded, and when society is crippled by the cost of living. 

*The names have been changed to protect identities. 

Image: Getty + Mamamia.