Teens are taking action – and their high schools are the victims.
Everything is on TikTok. It lacks soap dispensers, bathroom mirrors, paper towel racks, fire alarms, and even a teacher’s desk – all of which can be swept out of the school and then revealed in a TikTok video, with the hashtag #deviouslicks.
In the past month or so, TikTok has hosted nearly 94,200 similar videos under #deviouslicks, or #diabolicallicks, according to the Know Your Meme site. The hashtag also appears to have encouraged more serious vandalism, with students taking ceiling tiles, handrails, toilets and bathroom stalls.
“Zoinks man. Sometimes the licks are a little too sneaky, âone a commentator wrote of a video in which the poster headed for school, with a key, the hashtag “evil”.
For school administrators, thefts are not what they want to deal with now, just weeks after the new school year, with the virus and loss of learning and other pressures abating. And for some social watchers, the trend may be a sign of how teens feel, disruption and helplessness in their lives.
Schools from California to Michigan to Georgia are rampant. There have been suspensions, criminal charges and restitution orders. Toilet breaks are prohibited. And there have been warnings.
TikTok is also trying to stop the trend by removing content and redirecting hashtags and search results to its community guidelines page, according to a spokesperson. But as of Thursday, tens of thousands of videos can still be found under adaptations of the original hashtag.
The trend seems to have started on September 1, when a TikTok user shared a video, revealing a box of disposable masks in his backpack.
The hashtag: “absolutely devious lick”. There were over 239,000 views.
A few days later, another TikTok video was posted, this one on hand sanitizer, with the same hashtag.
This time, there were 7.2 million views.
At Takoma Park Middle School outside of Washington, DC, school officials discovered several vandalized bathrooms just days after class began on August 30. On Tuesday, the school began locking bathrooms during the five-minute period between classes as part of its new “surveillance plan.”
“We understand that this inappropriate behavior likely stemmed from a ‘challenge’ promoted through various social media platforms, particularly Tik-Tok,” wrote principal Erin L. Martin in an email sent to families on Wednesday.
At least 10 high schools in the Pasco County Schools District in Land O ‘Lakes, Fla. Are reporting stolen soap dispensers, signs and a torn chair leg that was pushed down the toilet, according to the district.
“We are trying to convince the students that this is not a joke, this is vandalism,” said Stephen Hegarty, the district spokesperson. “This is potentially criminal behavior, and it will be a very bad day when we identify it.”
The district has already disciplined a handful of students; the sentence includes suspension and criminal charges for theft and vandalism.
âWe are really scratching our heads on a couple of things,â Hegarty said. âWhy post something on social media that will get you in trouble with the law? And why destroy things, in your own school, which will cause inconvenience to everyone? “
For Amanda Brennan, senior director of trends at digital marketing agency XX Artists, the answer could be a pandemic. After more than a year of closures and virtual schooling, the students, who are now returning to school for the first time, may be simply looking for a way to rebel.
âIt makes sense to see kids stealing things because it feels like a power play,â Ms. Brennan said. “You feel powerful on these systems that you maybe didn’t feel like you had much control over.”
Ms Brennan said other platforms, like Reddit or Tumblr, have also hosted communities where people will give advice on theft or share what they have stolen.
Brendan Gahan, partner and social director of digital agency Mekanism, said #deviouslicks were like pranks on seniors before the internet age, along with other internet antics – like ‘breaking gallons’ (of people recording themselves destroying milk cartons in grocery stores) and “stealing LeBron’s head” (from the basketball player LeBron James action figure).
âIt’s the whole teen rebellion, but it’s just in a different medium,â Mr. Gahan said. âThere is something innately attractive about conflict, and that is being rebellious. TikTok allows people to share and display this behavior on a scale that wasn’t really available before.
But this rebellion is costing schools dearly.
The North East Independent District in San Antonio is forcing students – and their families – to pay each school hundreds of dollars in damages, according to the district. The district has not ruled out filing a complaint for more serious thefts.
District spokeswoman Aubrey Chancellor said five of the district’s six high schools are reporting thefts ranging from stolen soap dispensers to fire extinguishers. A school saw broken mirrors. Guardians and other maintenance workers should clean up after students.
âOnce we have identified the student, the parents will pay,â said Chancellor. âIt’s not monetary. This is the principle of the case.
Ms Brennan and Mr Gahan doubt that TikTok or school districts will be able to stop the trend, comparing any effort to the Streisand effect, which means that the more authorities try to deter students from stealing, the more they will steal it. really encourage.
“I’m not saying schools shouldn’t send out these notices,” Gahan said. “But it might be better to deprive it of oxygen than to recognize it or even push it away.”
He might be right. In a video responding to an administrator wiggling his fingers, one user wrote, âWhat I heard: Don’t get caught. But keep going, because it’s even funnier now.