On Sept. 1, TikTok user @jugg4elias posted a video of disposable masks he had stolen from his school with a caption: “A month into school. Absolutely devious lick.” School districts across the country soon began reporting vandalism and theft of school property—often in restrooms—as students began adding their own “licks,” slang for “theft,” to TikTok, a social media app for sharing short videos.
Stolen items range from COVID-19 tests to restroom mirrors to fire alarms, and schools have reported damaged sinks, toilets, and ceilings. Some schools have posted staffers to monitor restrooms: Closing the restrooms doesn’t always work because students steal the “Closed” signs.
West Ridge High School in Blountville, Tenn., opened in a new building in August. But on Monday, principal Joshua Davis told parents in a letter that toilets had been damaged, soap dispensers stolen, and plumbing “taken apart.” Police have arrested four Florida teens for similar theft and vandalism.
TikTok is now removing videos with the hashtag #deviouslicks in an attempt to curtail the damage at schools. “We expect our community to create responsibly—online and [in real life],” the TikTok communications team tweeted last week. “Please be kind to your schools & teachers.”
Past social media trends, though not limited to TikTok, have also encouraged risky behavior. In August, the so-called milk crate challenge showed participants climbing stacks of crates before inevitably losing their balance and falling. The Tide Pod challenge prompted calls to poison control centers in 2018 when people ingested the highly concentrated detergent packs, and a 15-year-old in Oklahoma died last year after taking the Benadryl challenge. Other challenges have encouraged social media users to ingest nutmeg or drop a penny between an electrical outlet and a partially plugged-in cord.
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