TikTok at schools: How vandalism became a trend

Images provided by the author and TikTok users. Top: Someone stealing a full door and posting the video of it on TikTok.

TikTok is a platform that’s been around for over 3 years, and by now, everyone either uses it or has heard of it. It’s known for the short clips that users upload, usually pertaining to dancing, singing, or comedy, but more recently, challenges. TikTok school challenges have exploded with popularity, with students from all over doing things listed for each month. Their popularity’s reason remains unclear, but it could be for a collection of reasons, such as seeking adventure, a pursuit for fun, or just because people see stuff from TikTok and think it looks cool.

During September, students were encouraged to vandalize the school bathrooms from the popularity of TikTok videos doing it. In some Fremont schools, students destroyed toilets, stall doors, soap dispensers, or other parts of the bathrooms. In several other states, schools have caught several students damaging their bathrooms, and one school in Virginia even banned the use of bathrooms due to this trend. Washington had to deal with this in the form of stolen soap dispensers, which is concerning considering that due to COVID, hand-washing has become increasingly important. However, Mr. Moran has reassured us that the school has been “responding to the incident” and since then, this has stopped happening. Along with this, he said that there will be “consequences” for those caught vandalizing school property, reminding students that following social media trends isn’t always the smartest idea. 

Students vandalize high school bathroom by stealing soap dispensers.

For October, the masterminds behind TikTok challenges have decided that students should smack a teacher and upload a video of it to TikTok. However, assaulting a teacher for this trend will have more severe consequences than vandalising a bathroom. A student from Louisiana got arrested for trying this challenge. While discouraging creators from churning out challenges seems unlikely, there are ways to discourage students from participating in these challenges. Mr. Moran says “talking about it” can help. He further elaborates that “a lot of things seem okay in your head, but once you start talking to someone that it affects, you realize that it probably wasn’t the best decision.” In essence, he says that more awareness can prevent people from doing harmful things. However, smacking a teacher is a rudimentarily unethical act; one would hope students never consider doing it.

These TikTok challenges remind us of how social media influences people’s lives. There have already been countless harmful trends that have originated from some social media, like TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. Some notable trends include the benadryl challenge (teenagers overdose on benadryl to induce hallucinations), choking challenge (where people choke themselves to induce a high), and boiling water challenge (people bathe in boiling water). All of these challenges have harmed, or even killed people that partook in them. 

However, this doesn’t mean that all social media is inherently bad. As Mr. Moran puts it, social media is a “great communication tool” with “a lot of positive things” that can come from it. The issue is with how people choose to use it. If students, and people in general, can avoid engaging in harmful trends and instead actively try to use social media in better ways, there would be no problem with all of these malicious ‘trends’ surfacing every now and then. As Mr. Moran puts it, a helpful way to avoid engaging in these trends is to talk to people and understand how your actions really affect others. It’s also helpful to just think things through and imagine what the outcome of an action could be. Slapping a teacher will affect you in a negative way and the teacher you choose to slap, and oftentimes just thinking about the consequences to your actions will bring you to your senses. If people didn’t get influenced by social media and tried using it for more positive uses, it could turn from the root of all evil to a healthy place for spending time with others.

Older TikTok challenge featuring a Benadryl overdose, which resulted in the hospitalization of 3 teens and the death of one.

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