TikTok is causing problems for teachers, and it’s bigger than just a classroom distraction

Teachers have asked TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter to help curb the spread of viral challenges and misinformation that have put educator safety at risk.

Source: njgphoto/Getty

Remember that shameful, uneasy feeling on the way to the principal’s office while awaiting punishment for acting up?

TikTok is probably feeling some of that right about now.

The largest teachers union in the US requested that TikTok, along with Facebook and Twitter, do more to stop the spread of viral challenges and misinformation that have put the safety of educators at risk, per The Wall Street Journal.

The teachers aren’t mad, just disappointed

Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, penned a letter in true teacher fashion — as a compliment sandwich that opens and closes with praise for the promise of social media, but calls out a number of recent incidents in between, including:

  • TikTok challenges: Like the “devious licks” challenge, which involves students vandalizing and stealing school property, and the “slap a teacher” challenge, which is pretty self-explanatory.
  • Violence fueled by misinformation: Including radical groups attacking teachers for enforcing mask mandates, and another group attempting to use zip ties to abduct a principal in Arizona for enforcing quarantine policies.

For its part, TikTok removed content associated with the “devious licks” challenge and promised the same with the “slap a teacher” challenge, but not before both had already gained steam.

The homework assignment…

… is for each platform to make a pledge to “fix [their] algorithms to put public safety over profits.” None of the 3 companies have issued a formal response, but Twitter did acknowledge the letter and plans to respond.

As for the students that end up in detention for participating in viral challenges — well, they’ll probably find a way to spend that time on TikTok, anyway.

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