Social media challenges sparking call to action for more responsibility

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Social media challenges have resulted in calls for more responsibility from social media giants.

Last month we reported on a viral trend on the social media platform TikTok that encouraged students to vandalize and steal school property. It was happening right here in several local school districts. This month schools are issuing warnings about an even more disturbing call to action: "slap a teacher."

Just last week, Rochester City School District addressed the ongoing challenges, encouraging parents to talk to their children and reminded them of the district’s code of conduct which "explicitly prohibits the behaviors described in the viral challenges." But these dares haven’t just caught the attention of school officials. Congressman Joe Morelle wrote a letter to the founders of Tik Tok imploring them to consider their power of influence.

"As you may be aware, the social media forum TikTok has been used to challenge viewers to participate in disturbing trends. In September, users were challenged to vandalize school bathrooms and destroy school property. I want to make families aware of the October challenge, which involves randomly slapping a teacher or staff member, recording it, and then posting the incident on TikTok. I ask that you discuss the potential consequences of participating in these types of challenges with your children. The District’s Code of Conduct explicitly prohibits the behaviors described in the TikTok challenges, and students who participate will face serious consequences. On behalf of all of our teachers and school staff, I ask for your support as we continue to provide a safe learning environment for both students and staff. " – Dr. Lesli Myers-Small, RCSD

"I think it’s important that companies that are hosting social media sites recognize they’re media companies, and I don’t think they can hide behind the notion that ‘well we’re just a platform and people who are putting things on the platform we’re not responsible for and they have First Amendment rights. . Obviously they have First Amendment rights, but the platform has to be responsible for things particularly when they’re encouraging violations of law assault on people," Morelle said.

The congressman says certain trends are setting bad examples for kids.

"This is completely unacceptable we ought to have zero tolerance in our society for it, so I’m going to continue to push Tik Tok and other social media platforms to be vigilant in stopping this and making sure we don’t spread this to young people and other people in our society," Morelle said.

Experts in psychology say they are not surprised these types of trends go viral, especially among this type of age group.

"Students who are currently in hs have been through a lot, and they may have some pent up energy that got mis-channeled in this case due to the incredible potency of desiring social approval and the way that social media amplifies it," said Anthony R. Pisani, an associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the University of Rochester.