Last month, TikTok banned the Milk Crate Challenge from their platform. If you’re curious, a quick YouTube search will reveal a bunch of people filming themselves or their friends falling painfully to the ground after stacking milk crates into a pyramid and trying to walk over it. Before the Milk Crate Challenge, other dangerous TikTok challenges abounded. The Cha Cha Slide challenge encouraged people to follow the instructions in the song while driving a car. There were also other more alarming trends—the Benadryl Challenge, the Blackout Challenge, and so on. Now, it seems like the latest dangerous TikTok challenge has emerged almost from out of nowhere. Most students call it “Devious Licks” and it’s directly aimed at schools.
“Devious licks” are what students have named the items they are stealing from their high schools and colleges when they reveal them on TikTok. Most of the stolen items have been small, like soap dispensers, rolls of paper towels, or boxes of masks. Other students, however, have pushed the trend to its limit stealing much larger items. Microscopes, projectors, and even SMART boards have all shown up in TikTok videos with some version of the caption, “Had the most devious lick at school today.” The trend has garnered over 235 million views on the TikTop app as of mid-September.
Is it really that big of a deal?
People not familiar with TikTok may be shocked to learn just how quickly the trend went viral. Schools all over the nation are dealing with student bathrooms that are missing all their soap and paper towel dispensers. Others thefts are causing safety concerns—missing fire alarms and extinguishers. And others are rapidly approaching felony theft—items costing above $500 like expensive technology equipment or entire toilets and sinks. One high school in Georgia has started asking teachers to escort students to and from restrooms throughout the day to cut down on the vandalism. Many others are simply locking vandalized bathrooms and refusing to allow students to use them.
How is it affecting teachers?
Stealing soap, paper towels, and other hygiene and safety items in the midst of a pandemic is bad enough. Many teachers, however, are reporting that the thefts aren’t directly just at the school at large. Individual teachers have been victims of this dangerous TikTok challenge themselves. “I had all of my art supplies (supplies that I purchased with my own money) stolen at the start of the day for some stupid…TikTok trend,” one teacher commented in the r/Teachers subreddit.
Another teacher reported having refused multiple requests from students asking if they could ” just pretend to steal” items for TikTok.
At a time when many teachers are feeling worn-out and under-appreciated, this dangerous TikTok challenge is leaving some teachers angry. “What does it say about our society,” one teacher posted in a Reddit conversation about “Devious Licks,” “when students are actually so proud about stealing from their school and from their teachers that they’re posting it online with the hopes of going viral?”
What are schools doing to stop the vandalism?
There is some good news on that front. A representative for TikTok recently released a statement saying that they were removing any content and redirecting any hashtags in an attempt to shut down this dangerous TikTok challenge. They also reminded app users that content that promotes or enables criminal activity is against their Community Guidelines.
More directly, many schools are treating this matter very seriously and letting their students and their parents know that those individuals who are caught participating in this trend will be facing legal consequences. Additionally, districts are posting messages like the one above asking parents to talk with their children about the trend.
For teachers, this dangerous TikTok Challenge is becoming a “teachable moment” they never asked for or wanted. Some teachers are having conversations with their students about who trends like this actually harm (i.e., janitors, custodians, their peers, etc.). Others are discussing how the destruction and theft harm school morale. Regardless of how teachers are addressing the challenge with their students, many are frustrated that it popped up just when they were in need of a break!