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Written by Megan N.
What Parents need to know about TikTok Stunts:
Death or Injury:
Because they are usually created by amateurs without any professional knowledge of the science behind their stunts, TikTok trends (or “challenges”) are rarely without consequence, and typically in the best-case scenario they leave the participant with mild injuries whereas worst-cases can result in severe injury or death.
Take the frozen honey challenge for instance – it is a seemingly innocuous trend where TikTokers film themselves consuming frozen honey from a water bottle, a decision which can result in extreme diarrhea because of the unusually high sugar intake. Other stunts can result in more severe repercussions, like the blackout challenge, a trend encouraging TikTokers to choke themselves until they pass out for 10 seconds. In 2021 alone, six children around the world have died, attributable to the ‘blackout’ challenge.
Incorrect or manipulative Camera Footage:
It is the shock value and apparent danger of these trends that make them so popular, and, as seen in Battery Aziz, the creator of the challenge can manipulate the camera (or footage) so it looks like they are performing the stunt whereas in reality they are not. Therefore they do not take any damage from the stunt onto themselves.
TikTok trends catch on easily because of how popular social media is among teens and adolescents. When a person finds a stunt video amusing, chances are high that they will want to share it with more people, because they find it entertaining and because they want to get attention and likes.
Short, simple videos like the ones you see on TikTok are the easiest to share online because they’re so short and because sharing them takes little to no effort. As a result, TikTok challenges are rapidly spread around and can accumulate hundreds of millions of views in just a few weeks.
Bullying/Addiction to Social Fame:
Some TikTok influencers may encourage you to say hurtful or insulting things to other people, including strangers or friends, and then film their reaction. They may also have creators with large egos power hungry or fame-driven that they are willing to do (or say) anything for views. Other challenges depict TikTokers pranking completely oblivious people and then posting the footage online. This can be detrimental if you have a relationship with that person, and it leaves the pranked person open to ridicule without them having agreed to be filmed in the first place.
In Battery Aziz the creator makes an innocuous remark about posting an inferred detrimental video about his “ex-girlfriend” and though it may get lost amongst the bigger messages of the episode, comments like these can easily be harassing and abuse of one’s social status at someone else’s expense.
It may be seen by anyone:
Nearly all TikTok pranks are designed to make the participant look weird or embarrassing, and this doesn’t exactly look good on resumes. Challenges like snorting a condom up your nose or swallowing tide pods could be grounds for a potential employer to turn away that individual.
At the moment, a challenge like this just seems like a silly brainless thing to show your friends and fit in with part of a larger, popular movement. Teenagers have to remember that these can be seen by everyone, and that they can be preserved online for decades to come.
A lot of TikTok challenges are illegal as well as humiliating, such as the sundress challenge. This challenge is designed for couples and involves one of them wearing a flowy dress on a date somewhere in public, then attempting to have sex under the dress without getting caught. A challenge like this can be punishable by the law even if the couple doesn’t get caught during intercourse – just sharing it online and exposing it to youth can get one registered as a sex offender. Disregarding fines and criminal charges, challenges like this can also lead to difficulty gaining employment. It is a huge price for something that involves very little effort. Challenges like the recent ‘devious licks’ trend have students vandalizing school bathrooms or property just to record and post it.
Safety Tips for Parents:
Be aware of the risks:
Encourage your child to talk to you if they are interested in doing a TikTok stunt. Be careful not to be derisive or condescending in your response (i.e. ‘why would you want to do something so crazy/dangerous?) An angry response could turn your child away and make them avoid confiding in you. Instead, set aside time to sit down and calmly discuss the challenge with your child; taking into account the consequences that could result if they followed through.
Understand their reasons:
Ask your child why they are interested in a challenge. Do they think it will make them more interesting? Are they hoping to get attention from someone by posting it? Understanding the reasons can help your child to recognize if they are interested only for shallow or insignificant reasons, or if those reasons can be reached through different methods. Once that is understood, the parent can hopefully direct the child to safer outlets. If they are looking for attention or recognition, parents can help them pursue a new hobby or club.
Report unsafe challenges:
Even if your own child is uninterested in such a challenge, having dangerous challenges remaining on TikTok increases the risk that they will be seen by more people and that these people will partake in it. Always report unsafe challenges to reduce the amount of risk or injury caused by them to others.
If your child wants to perform a TikTok stunt with other people, tell them to ask for permission and assure that those people know what they are participating in and that it will be shared online. It is unfair to do otherwise and can lead to broken friendships and hurt feelings.
Ensure that the challenge does not break any laws:
Always check laws before participating in and uploading a TikTok challenge. If the potential for injury isn’t enough to scare you away, the fines and long-lasting legal troubles should.