A MASSIVE spike in violent attacks by young Queensland girls has been blamed on the internet. Authorities say a 44 per cent jump in assaults is being driven by the growing popularity of "girl fight sites".
Queensland police charged 441 girls aged 10 to 14 with assault last year — up from 307 the previous year. The surge coincided with an explosion in teenage girls filming fights on mobile phones and uploading them on to sites such as YouTube.
Police are still investigating a savage schoolgirl fight at Ipswich State High School posted on the internet in June. Professor Kerry Carrington, from Queensland University of Technology's School of Justice, yesterday warned of a new generation of very nasty and physically violent girls.
"There is no doubt girls are becoming more violent," she said. "The internet actually encourages this behaviour because kids from all over the world go on and rate the fights, so even when conflict doesn't exist this particular medium may be encouraging violence."
Professor Carrington said a simple internet search revealed 73 million hits for girls' fighting compared with 31 million for boys, and 24 million girl fight videos on YouTube — eight times more than those featuring boys.
"Some of them are obviously fake but there are a huge number that are seriously very difficult to watch," Professor Carrington said. "Most people I've shown are shocked when they see them."
Queensland police investigated a string of school fights recorded on mobile phones last year, including three other girls bashing a 15-year-old Upper Coomera State College girl. Violent offences account for about a third of all crimes committed by girls, compared with a quarter or a fifth of the offences committed by boys.
Police acknowledged "emerging social networking trends" as a factor in juvenile offences but said statistics showed girls were still more likely to commit property offences than crimes against people.
In 2008-09, more than 1700 girls aged 10 to 14 years were arrested for shoplifting. They were second only to girls aged 15 to 19 years, with 2447 shoplifting offences.
"If there were no 15-year-old girls, you'd almost eliminate shoplifting completely," a Child Protection Investigation Unit officer said.
A Queensland Police Service spokesman said police were committed to ensuring young offenders were dealt with fairly.
"Children, regardless of gender, are dealt with according to the Charter of Juvenile Justice Principles ... with the view to diverting them from anti-social behaviour and the court's criminal justice system," the spokesman said.
But Professor Carrington said there was much more work to be done to address internet-inspired violence.
"There is definitely a connection between cyber bullying (and violence). They meet in cyberspace, which is where the bullying and harassment starts. When they meet in the real world, it's on," she said. "I think (the answer) is about cultivating a respect for people in cyberspace. It's very easy for no one to take responsibility because there's this perception that it's not real and doesn't have an effect in the real world. But it does."