As we continue to see, social networks are taking the world by storm, but not everything TikTok is cute dance videos or funny skits. Parents need to be aware of the darker sides to the social media platform. You might have seen or heard about some recent dangerous TikTok challenges, like the “Devious Licks” or the “Benadryl Challenge.”
The “Devious Licks” challenge encourages kids to steal or damage school property, then anonymously share a video with the hashtag on TikTok. This trend started with a kid stealing masks from school and is now costing thousands of dollars in bathroom and locker room repairs. Urban Dictionary describes a “lick” as “a successful theft which results in an acceptable, impressive, and rewarding payday for the protagonist.” The most common licks in this challenge are stealing soap dispensers, ripping up lockers, and damaging toilets. I recently performed a student assembly on cyber safety at a small private school where two students were caught stealing hand sanitizer to post it on TikTok.
The “Benadryl Challenge” encourages kids to take large doses of the antihistamine to induce hallucinations. The situation has concerned officials at the Food and Drug Administration enough to issue a warning on Thursday against the “serious problems” that can occur if you ingest too much Benadryl. In August, a 15-year-old reportedly died after doing the “Benadryl challenge.”
After these challenges fade, new ones will take their place, so what should we do to keep our kids safe?
1. Have a two-way conversation about social media challenges.
Talking to your child is the number one safety factor in their lives, but why is it so difficult for them to realize these challenges are dangerous? Claire Crooks, psychologist, director of the Center for School Mental Health at Western University and co-author of “Adolescent Risk Behaviors: Why Teens Experiment and Strategies to Keep Them Safe,” describes these types of challenges as the perfect storm combining the lag in the development of the prefrontal cortex during the teenage years and the children’s need for community and belonging, as well as the dopamine rush from likes, comments, and views. “These trends play directly into how adolescent brains are wired.” Coupled with their biological need for dopamine, they see social media influencers have lucrative careers and endorsement deals. The idea that one video could make them a viral sensation is not that far-fetched.
The most powerful and meaningful conversations are where both parties listen and share ideas. In fact, the more we ask and listen, the more likely we are to have a child come to an expectable conclusion on their own. Try asking:
- Why do some kids do these challenges? How big of a deal is it?
- Are some challenges dangerous? How can you tell if they are dangerous? Like the Benadryl Challenge, how could you know/research if it was safe? (Have your child show you by Googling, “Can Benadryl be dangerous?”
- If someone does a challenge and doesn’t get hurt, does that make it safe for you to try? Why or why not?
- What’s the difference between a prank and a crime?
- If you commit a crime and post it online, how could that image or video affect your future?
- What is a good rule to follow to stay safe from making a mistake online?
Asking questions and listening is a technique we should be using whenever we are having difficult conversations with our teens. It helps tamp down the emotional volatility that comes with some of these discussions. When you finish your talk with your child, leave an open door. This is not a one-time conversation. Make sure your child knows that they can come to you anytime they need to talk. You should also realize that you might not be the person they feel most comfortable talking to about this. Consider approaching another trusted adult (e.g., youth pastor, coach, etc.) or a professional counselor to be a sounding board for your child.
2. Log into your child’s accounts
Know all of your child’s usernames and passwords to all their devices and accounts. If you allow your child to have a social media account like Instagram, you should have the Instagram app on your phone and be logged in as your child. I have two teenaged boys who both have Instagram accounts. I have added their accounts to the Instagram app on my phone. Whenever they get a follow request, or when one of their followers comment on their pictures, I receive the notification as well. Since I am logged in as the account holder, I can view their accounts and see everything going on, including direct messages.
3. Install Bark on their mobile devices
Monitoring your child’s online activity may seem like a full-time job. It isn’t easy. I recommend installing a parent notification app on your child’s device. I am a big fan of Bark, a parent notification app that blocks inappropriate websites, monitors texts, email, and social media. It works on both iPhones and Android-powered phones. I have a promo code for you. Enter “cybersafetycop” when you sign up to get 15% off your subscription forever. Bark is available on the Apple App Store, Google Play, and at www.bark.us.
See our list of the most dangerous social media challenges to go viral in recent years that people should avoid and parents should be aware of.
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