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Panama City Beach, Florida – Teen parties getting out of hand are leading to beach curfews along the Jersey Shore, Virginia’s coast and the Florida panhandle.
In Panama City Beach, Florida, one problem section of the beach closes at 10 p.m.
“We were seeing everything from fights to underage drinking to drug use,” said PCB Police Chief JR Talamantez.
A shooting and gun bust over spring break also contributed to officials extending PCB’s spring break curfew into the summer months for the first time.
“When you get 200 to 500 people down there in the dark, it becomes an issue,” Talamantez said.
Talamantez also says social media is changing the game for teenagers organizing unruly summer parties.
“It’s become a large part of the problem,” Talamantez said. “No. 1, it’s a strain on our resources when you have strangers able to send one message and now congregate in one area at one specific time.”
That’s exactly what happened earlier this month in another Florida panhandle beach town. Snapchat videos show a massive group of teenagers at a party inside a multimillion-dollar Santa Rosa home. The videos show teens boxing in the living room and posing with the homeowner’s expensive jewelry.
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office says the party-goers broke in while the homeowners were out of town.
“There’s no doubt from our investigation that the party was planned,” said Captain Dustin Cosson. “We’re really trying to focus our efforts on who organized and who hosted the event.”
Social media safety consultant Josh Ochs says it’s simple for videos of kids participating in illegal activity to go viral and for a party of five to turn into 500 within minutes.
“If it’s more exciting, it shoots up in the algorithm,” Ochs said. “Thirty years ago, you could break the law, and no one would find out. Now you can carry out devious actions like we’ve seen recently and bring all your peers along for the ride.
As the founder of Smart Social, Ochs helps educates parents and students on the positives and negatives of social media. He says the recent incidents serve as a strong reminder to parents to talk to their kids about what they’re posting online.
“Parents should have an open dialogue with their kids about their online presence,” Ochs said. “Many apps promise some sort of disappearing feature, but it’s really easy for one follower to download that video, and then it lives in their camera roll forever. That’s where teens get into trouble.”