Over the past 100 years of American history, the education system in America has provided young learners with structure, knowledge and general skills that will benefit them over their lifetime. In recent years especially, schools have taken it upon themselves to become more politicized and polarizing; a trend that is troubling for many. Now, topics such as critical race theory are further polarizing students and parents and are taking away from the main purpose of a school, which is to teach children how to think rather than what to think.

Even more recently, the social media platform TikTok has gained a strong foothold into the American education system through TikTok dances and TikTok challenges. The TikTok dances for the most part are silly, harmless movements. TikTok challenges, however are an entirely different beast altogether.

Damage done to a school during TikTok’s devious lick challenge. (RCMP Handout)

As someone who currently runs the safety/security department in a moderately-sized district in the midwest, I’ve seen some incredibly concerning trends make their way both into teenage culture and into their school buildings. Since school began in August 2021, month after month we’ve moved from a TikTok trend named devious lick, to kiss your friend’s girlfriend at school, to slap a teacher and record it month to call in school safety threats during the month of December. In fact, Friday, December 17, 2021 was dubbed “National shoot up your school day” across the nation. In response to those threats, some districts around the country even went so far as to close the entire district down to better ensure the safety of students and staff.

It is here that my serious concerns with TikTok begin to materialize.

TikTok was created in 2016 and has been gaining users and popularity in the years since. While the platform was originally based in Los Angeles, California, the company is now owned by ByteDance; a Chinese-0wned company. But more on this later in the article.

TikTok Challenges

As I mentioned earlier, TikTok challenges have quickly become woven into the fabric of teenage life and have quickly become the bane of both teachers and administrators’ existence. The first challenge I spoke of that occurred through TikTok this year was called “devious lick.” What students were “tasked” to do for this challenge was to destroy school property and document the damage via TikTok, or, to steal school items such as chairs, pencil sharpeners, smart board markers, etc. The challenge called for the bulk of the destruction to be done inside school bathrooms, since it was easier to get away with vandalism there due to the lack of cameras or adult supervision.

Damage done to a school during TikTok’s devious lick challenge. (PopBuzz)

In the district I work in, we had numerous days during the devious lick challenge month where the cost of the damage to our bathrooms was in the thousands of dollars. Again, this isn’t the total monthly cost, it was the daily cost. In our bathrooms, kids were ripping soap dispensers off the walls, were intentionally clogging sinks and toilets with paper towels so they’d overflow, were breaking stall doors and toilet paper holders/dispensers, they were vandalizing walls/stalls with permanent markers, and one student even tried to shatter the porcelain commode using a hammer. Behavior like this happened through the entirety of the month in which devious lick was the desired goal. Not only did my school district have tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage done to it, but principals and other administrators were spending large chunks of their days either responding to damaged items or by patrolling bathrooms to try to ensure such events didn’t transpire. It was exhausting. Additionally, we had numerous thefts from the district. Students stole signs, smart board materials (those markers cost about $50/piece, as a reference) and just about anything else they could snag from a teacher’s classroom. TikTok seemingly turned some typically rule-following kids into thieves and vandals; all for some views on an app.

The next major challenge we dealt with this year was called “slap a teacher and record it” month. Once I heard about this new trend I made an announcement over the intercom and let the students know that anyone who made the choice to put hands on a teacher – whether for a social media challenge or not – would be criminally charged for assault. Thankfully, I am not aware of even a single incident in my district of a student striking a teacher. Other districts around the nation were less fortunate, though. A student at Covington High School in Louisiana is facing 10 years in prison for her assault on an elderly, disabled teacher courtesy of this TikTok challenge. The student, identified as Larrianna Jackson, allegedly punched the elderly teacher, knocking him/her to the ground before repeatedly hitting the teacher with a closed fist.