What is 2021 if not a world full of TikTok challenges? Whether you’re a parent or not, there’s no doubt you’ve heard of the infamous social media challenges in which participants film themselves doing some kind of radical stunt or “hack” for the sheer “entertainment” of others on the internet.
Seriously, fewer things prompt a physical *facepalm* more than reading about the latest “challenge.”
A school district in Texas is warning parents this week of a series of TikTok challenges that have criminal consequences if their children choose to participate in them, and it’s a warning every parent needs to be fully aware of.
Judson Independent School District Superintendent, Jeanette Ball, sent an urgent letter to parents on Tuesday warning of the latest TikTok challenge to hit the platform in October: “Slap a Teacher.”
“In the month of September, we dealt with a TikTok challenge that caused damage to our schools,” the letter says, referencing last month’s “Devious Licks” challenge, in which students were stealing everything from toilet paper to soap dispensers and pencil sharpeners from their schools, then bragging about it on TikTok. The more expensive the item, like a telescope for example, the more “impressive” the “lick.”
TikTok has since banned the challenge, removing hashtags and redirecting searches relating to the trend, citing a violation of its community guidelines.
But just as TikTok is getting a hold on the last trend, a new one is taking shape.
“The newest challenge for the month of October is called ‘Slap a Teacher’ where people in the videos are encouraging students to slap a teacher or school employee,” the letter from Judson ISD reads. “Not only are these challenges very disturbing but they are asking for our students to participate in criminal acts and behaviors that could have life changing consequences. Unfortunately, this behavior is taking place in school districts nationwide, but we cannot allow Judson ISD students to engage in such conduct.”
The letter goes on to warn parents that any behavior related to trending TikTok challenges will not be tolerated, and will be dealt with accordingly.
“It is considered a felony as it is an attack on a public servant and will result in school discipline being applied to the fullest extent, including possibly being criminally charged by our local police department.”
The letter implores parents to talk with their students about respecting school property and everyone and everything inside of it. The district also provided a list of pre-planned TikTok challenges many kids are already aware of—one for each month of the school year.
- October: Smack a staff member.
- November: Kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school.
- January: Jab a breast.
- February: Mess up school signs.
- March: Make a mess in the courtyard or cafeteria.
- June: Flip someone off in the front office.
“Please make your child is aware of the very serious consequences that could happen if they engage in this behavior.”
The school district also included references to Common Sense Media, which has a running list of popular social media challenges your kids already know about, and how to talk to them about making wise choices in response to the internet trends.
Parents, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, TikTok is not a friend to our kids. Be vigilant in knowing the trends, knowing your kids’ activity on social media platforms, and TALKING about how to behave online. In 2021 our virtual presence carries nearly as much, if not more representation of who we are, how we behave, and what we believe. If your child is on TikTok, you have a responsibility to know about their online presence, and educate them on the consequences of these challenges.