So-called “flash mobs” that form with the help of social technologies have become part bullying, part running of the bulls in Philadelphia as teenagers sprint through the streets, sometimes brawling and vandalizing, reports the New York Times. The flash-mob trend started innocently enough seven years ago as an act of performance art, where people linked through social-networking web sites and text messaging suddenly gathered on the streets for impromptu pillow fights in New York, group disco routines in London, and even a huge snowball fight in Washington. But these flash mobs have taken a more aggressive turn in Philly, where police on March 24 said they’ve had enough. They announced plans to step up enforcement of a curfew already on the books, as well as to hold parents legally responsible for their children’s actions. They are also considering making free transit passes for students invalid after 4 p.m., instead of 7 p.m., to limit teenagers’ ability to ride downtown. “This is bad decision making by a small group of young people who are doing silly but dangerous stuff,” Mayor Michael A. Nutter said. “We intend to do something about it immediately.” Flash mobs are not unique to Philadelphia, but they have been more frequent there than elsewhere. Philadelphia officials say they have begun getting help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation to monitor social-media networks, and television and radio stations are helping to recruit hip-hop artists to make public service announcements imploring teenagers to end the practice…

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staff and wire services reports