UPDATE: February 18, 2022
As the trend of TikTok challenges continues, there are two challenges parents should have on their radar. 

TikTok Benadryl Challenge
The Benadryl Challenge encourages children to take excessive amounts of Benadryl in an attempt to get high or induce hallucinations. This challenge has led to multiple instances of overdose, resulting in hospitalization and even death. Some children believe that over-the-counter medications like Benadryl are safe, even when taken in high quantities. Families should explain to their children that medications that do not require a prescription can still pose dangers to them if taken improperly. 

TikTok “Drive-by” Challenge
The “Drive-by” Challenge involves children using airsoft guns or toys, like Orbeez guns, to shoot water filled projectiles at random targets. Law enforcement agencies have issued warnings to children who participate in the challenge. Although these projectiles do not usually cause significant harm to the victims, pointing what appears to be a gun out of a window and shooting projectiles is not safe and can be considered a crime. 

For teens, caregivers, and educators looking for info and support on online challenges, visit the TikTok Safety Center.

Additionally Common Sense Education has gathered information to assist families and educators in dealing with online challenges in a proactive way. To get more information, listen to their Common Sense Education Chat

UPDATE: November 19, 2021
TikTok challenges have continued to make headlines over the last couple of months and schools and parents have worked hard to stay up to date on what might be coming next. At the end of October, Common Sense Media released an article titled Help Kids Navigate Viral Social Media Stunts with helpful tips and conversation starters for parents looking to discuss social media challenges with their children. The article explores why children might find these challenges intriguing and gives parents specific suggestions for addressing social media challenges head-on.

  • Talk about it.
  • Get them to think through it.
  • Acknowledge peer pressure.
  • Stay (somewhat) up to date.
  • Embrace the good ones.
  • Model responsible online habits.

Although it is nearly impossible to stay up to date with every upcoming challenge, parents can help prepare their children to think critically and make good decisions as new challenges surface.

UPDATE: October 7, 2021
We first started seeing online rumblings in September that the next TikTok challenge for the month of October is to “Smack a Staff Member” and other lists soon surfaced on Facebook and Twitter identifying October as “Slap a Teacher” month. While we believe that it’s mostly rumors, we feel the need to update this challenge post to include more information since local and national news and the California Teachers Association have recently addressed the latest challenge trend. 

“As if widespread vandalism in our schools last month wasn’t enough, the same ‘challenge’ circulating on social media networks TikTok and Twitter is now calling for students to ‘slap a staff member.’”California Teachers Association – Education Week

The monthly challenge list circulated during the height of the “Devious Licks” challenge which flooded TiKTok until they began redirecting and blocking searches and hashtags related to the trend back on September 15, 2021. Below is the official TikTok tweet regarding “slap a teacher” from yesterday, October 6, 2021. 

Videos related to the “Slap a Teacher” challenge that are still showing up on TikTok searches appear to be mostly from teachers warning students against the challenge, rather than students actually participating in the challenge. 

“Slapping an educator, regardless of whether it results in injury, is assault and battery, and is completely unacceptable,” – California Teachers Association

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of having conversations with your kids about these online challenges. Please check out our original post below that highlights steps families can take to help keep kids safe and out of trouble when it comes to these online challenges.

ORIGINAL POST: September 15, 2021
There are many positive things that have come as a result of social media. We meet friends and sometimes find groups of people with similar interests, forming real friendships within online communities. We use social media as an escape to scroll through funny videos and memes and to explore our creativity and sense of belonging.

There are also some negative things. To boost self-esteem and feel a sense of belonging in their social circles IRL and online, people post content with the hope of receiving positive feedback through views, likes, comments, follows, subscribes and shares – with one ultimate goal – “going viral”. TikTok is popular, in part, due to their viral challenges. The challenges can range from fun dance routines to risky behavior/dangerous challenges. Why are kids willing to risk their health, safety and well being for potential followers, views and likes on TikTok? 

According to Dr. Pamela B. Rutledge, “The app has some distinguishing features that enhance its appeal: a low barrier to entry, artistic control, the illusion of fame, and being part of something new and cool. Joining a trending TikTok challenge means that you don’t even have to think up original content ideas; you can just add your version of the latest dance, lip-sync or prank and ride the trend. These factors make TikTok the ideal app for anyone with spare time and a creative bent who enjoys performing in public, loves to share, is easily amused, and likes a lot of changing stimulus.” This low barrier entry point allows kids to engage in many positive ways with the platform. “However, for those who crave social validation and lack the critical thinking skills or developmental maturity to judge risk, TikTok and TikTok challenges can be a less positive and sometimes dangerous experience.”

Over the years, TikTok challenges have varied in their complexity and levels of participation. One thing has stayed the same, though. Many of these challenges pose serious risk for children who participate. This list of challenges highlights a few of the most recent or most popular challenges.

TikTok Devious Lick Trend
The Devious Lick Trend consists of students stealing objects from their schools and sharing photos or videos of the stolen objects online and dubbing them “devious licks.” In this context, a devious lick refers to a successfully stolen item. In a typical video, the TikTok user unzips their backpack to reveal their stolen goods. This challenge results in unplanned expenses for school districts, disruption to learning, and possible suspension and legal consequences for students who participate. Challenges like the Devious Lick Trend have escalated to the point of the platform having to intervene. As of Wednesday afternoon, September 15, 2021, TikTok has taken action to remove  these types of videos and redirect #deviouslick to their community guidelines. TikTok’s official Twitter account @TikTokComms sent out a tweet stating, “We expect our community to create responsibly – online and IRL. We’re removing content and redirecting hashtags & search results to our Community Guidelines to discourage such behavior. Please be kind to your schools & teachers.”

TikTok Baby Swing Challenge
The Baby Swing Challenge involves kids squeezing themselves into playground baby swings. Many of these kids get stuck which results in having to call first responders to remove them from the swing. This challenge is both dangerous to the participant and results in the destruction of swings that could otherwise be enjoyed by children in the community. 

TikTok Back Cracking Challenge
The Back Crack Challenge first popped up on TikTok back in 2020 but it has returned. The challenge’s newest form involves two participants. First, one person kneels on the floor and puts their hands on the back of their head. Next, a second person faced away from the camera, interlocks arms with the first person and lifts them, resulting in an audible “crack” sound. Since these actions are being performed by children who are not trained in these techniques, this challenge runs the risk of causing damage to a participant’s spine. 

TikTok Dry Scooping Challenge
The Dry Scoop Challenge is similar to the cinnamon and nutmeg challenges in that people attempt to swallow a dry scoop of pre-workout or whey protein powders. What ends up happening is their mouths get really dry, because the powder soaks up all the moisture. It’s supposed to be/look funny when people cough and choke on the powder sending a cloud burst into the air. This challenge has the potential to be really serious by causing people to choke or inhaling the powder or mix into their lungs. 

TikTok “Blackout Game”
While participating in this challenge, children choke or asphyxiate themselves until they pass out and wake up a few moments later. This challenge poses an acute risk to the health of the participant and has even resulted in death for multiple children. 

Parents and families might be unsure about how to help their children avoid the lure of these challenges and trends. However, parents can take steps to help keep their children safe and out of trouble. 

  • Educate yourself on popular challenges. A simple Google Search can help you become aware of some of the challenges your child might be viewing on TikTok or through other social media channels.
  • Ask your child if they have ever participated in a TikTok challenge (positive ones included) and why they participated. If you can identify your child’s motivation for participating in challenges, you will have a better chance of helping them think critically about which challenges they should skip.
  • Talk to your child about popular challenges. Directly address any dangerous or illegal aspects of the challenge and be up front with your child about the possible consequences of participating in the challenge. 
  • Use the EGUSD anonymous reporting system, Catapult, to report students who are taking part in dangerous or illegal activity. Parents, families, and students can access the reporting system from all EGUSD school websites.   

Even though trends and challenges quickly come and go, all it takes is one post to get enough traction to gain a ton of followers, which is enticing to children. Parents and families must stay vigilant about monitoring their children’s online activity and participation in these challenges and intervene appropriately. While we are highlighting TikTok, children (even young children without TikTok accounts) are often exposed to these challenges via YouTube. Parents and families should be aware of what videos children are watching and start the discussion about online challenges early and have that discussion often.