‘Smack a staff member’ TikTok challenge alarms teachers, counselors

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 9:18 PM CDT
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(WBRC) - There’s a recent and possibly even dangerous series of TikTok trends encouraging teens to do things like vandalize school and now, to assault school staff.

The list of challenges goes far beyond pranks, and school officials are now looking at them like a crime wave.

We saw vandalism of school bathrooms last month... smashed soap dispensers and more.

For October, it gets worse. The challenge... to “smack a staff member.”

“I would say it’s probably more frustrating than anything,” said William Tunnel at the Alabama Education Association.

Administrators across the state have sent warning notices home to parents... because these challenges are not pranks.

“It’s technically a crime that carries real penalties for students that involve themselves in this,” he said.

Parents are asked not to shirk this off, because the evidence is on the app and these challenges are actually happening.

“Everybody involved, take this seriously, school is a good place, don’t mess it up with a TikTok Challenge,” said Tunnel.

Licensed Counselor Lauren Roberts says kids may be tempted to participate for several reasons.

“Peer pressure and the want to go viral and be known on social media,” explained Roberts.

The reasons for acting out can also go deeper, and should concern parents.

“Teens in general have a need for a sense of belonging, and right now due to the pandemic, their main way of connecting is online,” said Roberts.

She says going online and doing these challenges can give them validation...without them realizing they could get a lot more than that.

“This severity of what they’re doing right now, I don’t think it’s really registering with them or it’s more for this popularity, this viral,” said Roberts.

The severity is also alarming teachers, who urge parents to talk to their kids.

“I would certainly encourage parents, talk to your child about what they’re involved in and what’s going on at their school,” said Tunnel.

Counselor Roberts says parents should regularly check their child’s social media whether they like it or not.

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