TikTok Vandalism School Trends Lead to Real-Life Consequences  

Sola Obayan, CEO and principal consultant at BTO Solutions, warns young people of dangerous TikTok trends.  

Photo provided by Sola Obayan


It’s not hard to get caught up in the social media whirlwind that is TikTok.

From teens using the flashy, eye-catching popular online platform to connect with their inquisitive followers to entrepreneurs growing their brand online through the app — about one billion people now are logging in and making their virtual presence known in this growing community.

But at what cost?

With the increasing connectivity of the virtual world, an alarming number of today’s youth are duplicating dangerous trends in real life (IRL) that are wreaking havoc in schools across the country.

USA Today reported that on TikTok, a new ‘devious licks’ challenge is influencing students to vandalize or steal property from their schools, which is subsequently leading to criminal charges around the nation.

The trend started earlier this month as students began the Fall semester while recording and posting videos of themselves taking school-related objects like computers, soap dispensers, fire extinguishers, and more.  Vandalized bathrooms, missing bathroom stalls, and other atrocities are constantly popping up on people’s timelines as more and more get in on this vicious trend with the hashtag #deviouslicks. In response, TikTok users have begun using alternative hashtags and keywords such as #dispicablelicks, according to the article.

“It is very concerning to superintendents and school district personnel,” Dr. Glynn Maleyko, Superintendent of Dearborn Public Schools said in a WXYZ article. “Nothing good is going to come of it.”

Last month this ongoing challenge asked for students to steal or damage school property. This month the challenge is to smack a teacher, according to the article.

“When you make a mistake, especially something on social media, a challenge or whatever it may be, a lot of times that can never go away,” Dr. Maleyko said in the published report. “What it can do is get students into a lot of trouble.”

Sola Obayan, who knows a thing or two about personal and professional branding, shared her thoughts about the challenge. As the CEO and principal consultant at digital marketing consultancy BTO Solutions, she told the Michigan Chronicle that her consultancy company works with brands that “move the needle” on helping our communities and the world thrive.

“Our client list includes emerging tech companies in the artificial intelligence and cryptocurrency space, organizations developing solutions for underserved markets, social movements, political campaigns, and community and nonprofit initiatives,” Obayan said, adding that with her work, she is keenly aware of social trends and their ramifications. “Teenagers are not particularly aware of the long-term impacts of their personal brand.”

The millennial Detroiter and Austin resident added that there is a desire to “go viral and build clout,” which is appealing to youth driven by attention and acceptance.

She added that schools and local entities can take a proactive stance by including TikTok in their communication strategy, while producing content that showcases students in a positive light, then engaging with them.

“Meeting them where they are can motivate students and provide the attention they’re seeking, but institutions have to be active participants on the channel,” she said, adding that young people can get in on the positive influence, too. “Students are speaking out against the destruction of school property as it impacts them. These students make for natural advocates whose content can be elevated by schools. The good news is that like all trends, they do end. The most important takeaway is that a crisis plan can quickly address negative impacts of social media trends.”

Obayan added that clout chasing doesn’t have to be the sole motivator for people while using TikTok.

“Being authentic is the best way to grow a social media platform following,” she said. “Consider what you’re passionate about and be consistent in sharing that content.”

Jennifer Hamra, 40, of Sterling Heights, a lifestyle blogger, Good Life Detroit, and mother to six children (ranging from one to 21 years of age) told the Michigan Chronicle that she uses social media to positively impact her online tribe who appreciates her way of storytelling and blogging.

Hamra said that she has taken the time to research social media content creation.

“From reading articles and books to watching YouTube videos and taking courses with social media coaches, I am continuously working on my own personal branding development. It has helped me learn how to use social media platforms effectively and wisely,” she said, adding that “so much has changed” with social media – and not always for the best.

“When creating a personal brand online, particularly on social media, content creators do have to be mindful of their brand identity and the messaging they share with their followers,” she said. “If a content creator is sharing a harmful message or encouraging their followers to engage in a destructive or illegal activity, then they should be held responsible for this. … That’s why it’s important for content creators who are creating a personal brand to be mindful of the content they’re creating and understand that their followers, and sometimes even non-followers, are watching.”

She added that it’s also important to be mindful of not lumping all young people in the same category, especially with social media trends.

“There are many young people who are creating and establishing their personal brands on social media. They’re very talented and good at what they do,” she said, adding that overall, people should take care of how they treat themselves, and others, online and off. “Be mindful of the messaging you are sharing and understand that as a content creator, you do have a social responsibility to ensure you are not creating a negative space or causing harm to others. You can use social media for good and to truly make a positive difference in your followers’ lives.”

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