A few years ago, many of our friends completed the Ice Bucket Challenge and posted about it on social media.
Both my husband and I were challenged multiple times. He agreed to be doused with a bucket of freezing water and posted his video on Facebook.
I wrote a donation check to the ALS Association and stayed perfectly warm and dry. My husband and I were happy to bring awareness to Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and donate money to such a worthy cause.
A couple of years later, we learned of a forbidden fruit found in American laundry rooms. YouTube videos were cropping up of teenagers biting and attempting to eat Tide Pod laundry detergent packets.
Poison Control Centers reported a spike in detergent ingestion, and Proctor and Gamble created public service announcements asking people not to eat their laundry pods.
They now label the front of their packaging, warning consumers that laundry soap, even in colorful pods, is harmful if put in the mouth or swallowed. I suppose Mr. Yuck stickers weren’t sufficient for the job anymore.
Some Internet challenges are fun and silly. Our Savages spent hours in 2020 entertaining themselves with TikTok dances, mannequin poses and water bottle flipping.
These harmless social media challenges provided a welcome distraction and time absorber as we navigated stay-at-home orders and Covid uncertainty.
Now, here we are back to pseudo normalcy, and yet another TikTok challenge is gaining popularity. Devious Licks are a viral trend in which students steal from and/or vandalize their schools, specifically their bathrooms.
Kids are taking soap and paper towel dispensers from the walls, hiding them in their clothing, and posting about it on TikTok. They’re smearing food, or even worse substances, on walls and doors. Some kids have smashed mirrors, toilets and urinals.
It’s become such a problem that school districts have implemented strict bathroom use policies and required already understaffed buildings to place monitors outside of restrooms. Guilty teens in many communities have been arrested or fined for theft and vandalism.
How did social media challenges evolve from encouraging us to do something silly for a good cause to doing something personally hazardous to breaking the law in just a few short years?
Why do so many young people recklessly follow these social media trends when doing so puts them in peril of serious illness or punishment?
It seems social media influencers are wielding way too much influence on our children.
As parents, my husband and I have had many conversations with our kids about standing up to peer pressure, about doing what’s right even if it’s not easy. We’ve tried to lay a solid moral foundation in each of our Savages.
Do they always heed our advice? Of course not.
I’m not naïve to the foolish decisions teenagers make. Even if our children don’t believe it, their dad and I were irresponsible teenagers once ourselves.
Yet, our conversations about right and wrong, obeying the law and being true to oneself and one’s creator provide our Savages with a moral compass to recognize things like devious licks for the idiocy they are.
One of my childhood media influencers, Mr. Fred Rogers, once said, “The most important people in a child’s life are that child’s parents and teachers. That means parents and teachers are the most important people in the world.”
Parents need to remember that they’re more important than social media influencers. If we embrace that importance, we can remind our kids that acting like they have a lick of sense means saying no to devious licks.