Last month, school leaders worked tirelessly to address issues created by students as a response to a TikTok Challenge encouraging students to conduct vandalism in the school restrooms and post it on social media. With everything else happening in our schools, having to conduct investigations, talk with students, clean up and repair restrooms, and possibly issue school discipline based on the outcome was laborious in addition to the work with social distancing, contact tracing, and focusing on learning for students. In some situations, the feeling of staff exhaustion came more from the feeling of how students were treating their school and staff than the physical clean up itself!
What we learned last week was that the bathroom prank was just one of the many challenges on TikTok – more challenges have been posted for the rest of the school year and into the summer. Some of the challenges continue the practice of vandalism, while others have the potential for assault! Some open-source media state that TikTok is addressing these challenges by deleting and blocking the names of users associated with the challenges. While this is one step to help combat these malicious activities, there’s caution that social media will still be posted that bypass the blocks to be seen by students.
Knowing that we need to address this proactively, school district leaders are encouraged to do the following:
- School administrators should work to inform parents of this new and upcoming trend. They should ask parents to talk with their children to let them know that these pranks are harmful and could result in school discipline based on infractions to the school’s code of conduct. Information should also include a link to the school’s code of conduct as a reminder and for reference.
- School leaders should speak with students directly about these challenges, their harm to the school community, and the potential repercussions in discipline that could result if they participate.
For me, my first reaction to all of this is wishing for TikTok to be deleted. And then, I realized that this social media platform is only one of many, and that it’s not the sole culprit but a symptom to an underlying issue. If TikTok was deleted, who knows what next social media platform would take its place.
Instead, we have to collectively flip the script on these negative-based challenges.
Telling students to just stop may not be enough.
What if the TikTok Challenges could be replaced with positive endeavors?
As school leaders, we have to give up the thinking that blocking all social media will correct the situation. Social media is our new reality, so we might as well adapt and learn how to live with it. And, we have to also partner with parents to help students to learn with it also.
What if we could make a positive list of TikTok Challenges for the rest of the school year go viral? Below, I created a new set of challenges. Feel free to download the graphic, post it on social media, and help it to go viral!
Better yet, talk with your students in person at your school to share this new list. Let them know how they can be responsible as leaders of their school. Engage your student council, student athletes, and other groups of students to be leaders in flipping the script!
Help them to empathize an understanding in how their actions can make someone else feel – either good or bad. Are they stopping to consider the impact that negative challenges have on others?
Give them an opportunity and platform to bring positive, uplifting challenges into their school community – help them to know that the space and people in the school is connected to them.
In every event that poses itself, we have an opportunity. We have a responsibility to be clear with our students and families and to notify them that challenges that harm the school environment and each other will not be tolerated. But, we also have a chance to provide a different avenue and a real-life learning lesson in how we can overturn something negative into something positive. I’m choosing to take a stand to flip the script, and I hope you will join me!