TikTok is known for its daring and dangerous challenges that go viral across various social media platforms, often sending parents into panic mode.
Last week, one of the app’s users, with the username @avalouise, shared a video of herself licking a toilet seat on an airplane. The six second clip is evidently a crass attempt at garnering social media attention by feeding off the coronavirus hysteria sweeping the globe.
This is made clear by the words “coronavirus challenge” which are plastered over the video in all capital letters.undefined
The inclusion of the word “challenge” implies that:
- Either @avalouise was joining in on a pre-existing challenge, or
- that she was trying to encourage others to hop on board by doing something even more dangerous for the sake of social media clout.
TikTok now has over 1.5 billion users, with the majority of them being young social media users below the age of 30. While public events get postponed and universities, schools, businesses and offices shut down in preparation for weeks of social distancing to curb the rise of coronavirus cases, this video comes at a very bad time.
In an interview with IOL about another TikTok challenge called the Skull Breaker, Cape Town-based clinical psychologist Rafiq Lockhat shared some insight into the logic behind these sorts of videos. "Take the In My Feelings challenge. The ones I remember were the videos where people got hurt. Those became the popular ones," he said.
Going on to emphasise his point, to a teenager, what's important when it comes to challenges like this one, is that everyone notices you. “You're young and you don't have to understand the consequences,” he said.
The best way to keep teens from engaging in dangerous challenges is to monitor their social media use and be in the loop when challenges such as these arise. It is important to be able to intervene before your child steps into harm’s way.
Fortunately, TikTok has announced new safety features which will enable parents to control the content their children consume on the platform. TikTok’s head of trust and safety in Europe, Cormac Keenan said in a blog post that: "As part of our ongoing commitment to providing users with features and resources to have the best experience on TikTok, we are announcing family safety mode, a new feature to help parents and guardians keep their teens safe on TikTok.
"We will keep introducing ways to keep our community safe so they can stay focused on what matters to them – creating, sharing, and enjoying the creativity of TikTok’s community."