Teachers, parents, and whole communities are on edge as a result of threats against schools around the nation, and TikTok is smack in the middle of it.
This school year, a growing number of challenges from the video-sharing social platform have appeared, aimed to be completed on school grounds, sometimes with disastrous repercussions.
TikTok challenges have completely invaded schools, including elementary and middle schools. From Devious Licks – a challenge in which kids steal something from school to show off in a TikTok video – to the “slap a teacher” challenge to school shooting threats, TikTok challenges have completely invaded schools.
Threats of mass violence on school campuses are hardly the most serious — or deadly — concern. Nonetheless, there’s no denying that TikTok is a force to be reckoned with in the classroom.
What is the cause of this, and what can instructors do about it? We spoke with various professionals about the TikTok difficulties that every teacher should be aware of, as well as how to keep alert.
What Do Teachers of Young Kids Need to Know About TikTok?
TikTok may not come to mind while you’re teaching at an elementary or middle school. After all, isn’t the social networking site designed for teenagers? TikTok technically restricts sign-ups to children aged 13 and over in order to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA), a federal rule aimed at protecting children online. Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat all have similar age restrictions.
However, Teodora Pavkovic, a digital wellness specialist and psychologist at cyber content filtering startup Linewize, cautions that younger children are hearing about the platform wherever they go, whether from older siblings, children on the school bus, or on television.
“Tik Tok has swiftly climbed the social media popularity ladder and is now catching up to YouTube in terms of both the number of its younger users and, more crucially, the amount of time they spend on the site,” adds Pavkovic.
Some people are merely watching videos without creating an account – you don’t need one to see TikTok content. Others have accounts, and they post often.
Tiffany Whyte, a fifth-grade special education teacher in Georgia, says, “Most of my pupils are on social media, particularly Tik Tok.”
“The kids who make Tik Tok do it whenever they have a chance.” They’ll sometimes sneak their phones into the restroom and make Tik Tok videos with their buddies!”
You’re not a TikTok user? The good news is that watching TikTok (or even making videos) isn’t always a terrible thing.
“On Tik Tok, you’ll mostly find funny videos of people singing, dancing, baking, playing with dogs, raccoons eating Cheetos, and other things,” Pavkovic explains. To put it another way, there’s a lot for youngsters to enjoy.
TikTok Challenges & Schools
Then there are the challenges that are offered, which lead to children going down unsuitable pathways in school.
What is the goal? To participate in the challenge, upload a video of yourself completing the activity at hand, whether it’s vandalizing school property or assaulting a teacher.
The videos are made by kids in the hopes of expanding their followings and appearing on the coveted TikTok For You Page, where millions of other TikTokers may watch them.
What are the implications of these TikTok challenges? Take it from the schools that have been forced to shut down for days due to shooting threats on TikTok from Michigan to Washington.
In response, TikTok moved to Twitter, stating that it is collaborating with law authorities to “investigate concerns of possible violence at schools, even though we have not uncovered evidence of such threats originating or spreading through TikTok.”
In the spirit of the Devious Licks challenge, vandals ripped soap dispensers off walls and walked away with paper towel dispensers at schools around the nation earlier this year.
Middle pupils have been caught vandalizing in the name of Devious Licks, while elementary schoolers have previously been reprimanded for participating in the “slap a teacher” challenge.
According to Pavkovic, the motivations for young children to participate are similar to those for their older classmates. All they want to do is be a part of something!
“Global trends are Tik Tok’s defining characteristic,” she continues, “which explains why the isolation (and loneliness) that the Covid-19 epidemic gave us helped the app become so enormously successful.”
“Participating in these trends and difficulties allows individuals to come together and experience a feeling of unity and togetherness that we haven’t felt ‘in real life in months.”
What Can Teachers Do About TikTok Challenges?
Get Familiar With TikTok
You don’t have to establish an account to use the site, but Pavkovic recommends learning how it works and how youngsters use it.
You may access TikTok by installing the app from the Apple Store or Google Play, or by going to tiktok.com via a web browser.
It’s worth firing up the browser and having a look if only to familiarise yourself with the jargon and to understand how your pupils are learning about “no bones day” (don’t worry; it’s innocuous and even sweet) or Olivia Rodrigo’s lookalike.
“Invest the time to learn how the platform’s algorithm works, what the dangers are and how to mitigate them, and what efforts can be made to make the platform as secure as possible for young people (including examining its privacy settings and parental control choices),” Pavkovic suggests.
When in doubt, what should you do? Slaying Digital Dragons: Tips and Tools for Protecting Your Body, Brain, Psyche, and Thumbs from the Digital Dark Side, by Alex J. Packer, an educator, psychologist, and author of Slaying Digital Dragons: Tips and Tools for Protecting Your Body, Brain, Psyche, and Thumbs from the Digital Dark Side.
“Because many kids know much more about how these sites function and their various layers and features than adults do,” Packer recommends, “I feel that asking nonjudgmental questions is a terrific approach to introduce subjects and get the dialogue started.” “Create an environment in which pupils are free to express themselves.” Ask inquiries in terms of ‘older kids they know’ if some youngsters appear hesitant. Allow your pupils to educate you!”
This TikTok guide from Common Sense Media was created for parents, but it has lots of useful information for teachers as well!
Talk About Values
“These types of social media challenges provide a great opportunity for teachers (and parents at home) to reconnect their classrooms with their school values, and to remind their student body of the kinds of interpersonal qualities — for example, kindness and compassion — that they have all committed to embodying,” Pavkovic says.
Talking about TikTok issues during social-emotional learning modules is a great approach to include real-life experiences into your lessons, framing a TikTok difficulty as one that either aligns or does not fit with the values you’re addressing. It is possible to teach children that they have the ability to pick the ideals they wish to pursue.
“This may be taught even to the smallest elementary school pupils as long as the terminology is age-appropriate,” Pavkovic explains.
Keep your talks neutral while you’re at it.
“The best approach to walk that line is to provide a balanced picture, one that balances the flaws and positives, dangers and rewards and lets them know that we perfectly understand why they are driven to these sorts of virtual places in the first place,” Pavkovic recommends.
Packer suggests asking the following questions:
Are you a social media user? Do you know anybody above the age of 50 who uses social media?
What is the most beneficial aspect of social media? What’s the worst that might happen?
Do you believe that social media makes individuals seem to be fake?
Have you ever heard of terrible things occurring as a result of being on insert platform here?
Have you ever completed a challenge you saw on TikTok? What went wrong?
Do you know someone who has completed a risky challenge? Why do you believe children do actions that might harm them or others?
Finally, Packer suggests coming up with a vocabulary that youngsters may use to resist peer pressure to participate in harmful activities.
“In class, suggestions may be presented and sought,” he explains. “Humor is often a wonderful method for youngsters to draw a line and bow out without seeming to their peers as holier than thou.”