Social media app TikTok hit 1.5 billion downloads last November 2019, and is currently ranked as the world’s second most downloaded app after Whatsapp, surpassing both Facebook and Messenger in 2019. This is likely due to its low minimum age requirement. (The app is available to anybody over 13 years ago.)
Some of the things that TikTok is famous for are the new challenges that constantly pop up on the app, including dance challenges and trending hashtags. However, there are times when these challenges can prove to be dangerous. The most recent challenge that could be putting youngsters at risk is called the Skullbreaker Challenge.
The Skullbreaker Challenge seems to have originated in South America, where it is called ‘Rompcráneos’ in Spanish. In the challenge, three people stand next to each other and the person in the middle jumps as high as possible. After the person jumps, however, the other two people prank him by kicking out his legs before he can land. This usually results in the jumper falling down and sometimes hurting themselves by hitting their head as a result (thus the name ‘skullbreaker’).
One mother in the US has recently spoken up about her daughter’s own injuries after participating in the viral challenge. The high school freshman from South Dade Senior High School in Miami says she was bullied into doing the challenge.
The student was taken to a hospital after falling and was still in pain a week after the incident – both physically and mentally. Although the family did not file any charges against the other students involved, their lawyer intends to proceed against the Miami-Dade County Public Schools District for allowing the trending challenge to take place at their schools in the first place. The other students that took place in the challenge were disciplined accordingly, and the student that was hurt has since transferred schools.
In a statement, the district has urged parents to talk to their children about using social media responsibly, and to teach them that empathy and respect for other people is more important than gaining likes and followers online.
Dangerous challenges aside, ‘Cyber Cop’ Susan McLean points out that TikTok is generally not a good app for children and teenagers to have when it comes to online safety. While adults may already have a firm grasp on online safety, minors do not. One investigation in the UK actually showed that paedophiles often groom children on TikTok and send them sexually explicit messages.
If you want to allow your children to use TikTok, make sure you guide them accordingly and monitor their account at all times. Talk to them about boundaries, and help them understand what they should and should not share online. Also make sure that their account is on private and that they cannot receive private messages. Disable comments on the app, as well. You can never be too careful.