Eatonville (Wash.) High School recently sent parents an email warning them of dangerous TikTok activities targeting students.
For the uninitiated, TikTok is a social media video sharing platform with 37.4 million followers. Its main appeal is to teenagers and Gen Z (anyone born after 1997), who constitute half of the TikTok market. This makes it very attractive to marketers.
Administrators warned parents that TikTok distributed messages containing a calendar of things students should do. Activities that could give students criminal records.
Schools across the nation experienced an uptick in vandalism after a TikTok list of monthly “activities” for this school year. The September challenge was: “Mess up a toilet/vandalize restroom.”
USA Today reported students being arrested in several states for crimes, some of which could give them lifelong records and that TikTok has taken down the list. However, the newspaper reported that some TikTok subscribers have developed workarounds.
In as much as the complete monthly list encourages actions that are far more serious than bathroom vandalism, it seems prudent not to mention them here.
Eatonville administrators told parents that these types of behaviors are usually rare at their high school, but noted “ ... we have experienced significant and repeated bathroom vandalism during the month of September. So far, only a small number of students have been involved and the vast majority of students just want it to stop.”
Administrators told parents, “ ... we are very concerned about the potential impact of some of the upcoming challenges.”
They also noted that peer pressure makes such challenges very tempting for teenagers, warning that “ … participating in these challenges can have real-life repercussions, such as suspension, bodily injury or even a felony charge.”
If the small, rural Eatonville High School is on to these malicious TikTok messages, it is likely that many teenagers in Latah and Whitman counties also are being tempted by TikTok.
Parents and educators on the Palouse would well serve their high school students by investigating the phenomenon and taking a proactive initiative to keep the kids out of trouble. Parents should start by discussing TikTok with their children and monitoring their activity.
Presumably most of TikTok’s content is innocuous, but parents of teenagers would be well advised to be aware.
Educators may well want to contact Eatonville High School administrators for information on their efforts.
Day is a retired Washington State University faculty member. He and wife, Ruth, raised their family of six children, all of whom graduated from Pullman High School.