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TikTok Trends: The Good, the Bad, and the Potentially Dangerous

by | Mar 25, 2021 | Culture & Media, Internet Safety Tips

Have you ever seen your child recording themselves trying to master all the steps to a 10-part TikTok dance routine? If so, you probably know how alluring the pull to participate in a TikTok trend can be for kids. TikTok is a huge part of tween and teen culture these days, influencing everything from fashion and slang to music and memes

In fact, TikTok trends have surpassed mere viral dance moves and now include complex skits, jokes-within-jokes, collaborative songs, stitched-together video formats, and more.  Remember when everyone was singing sea shanties a few months ago? It started on TikTok! Most are relatively harmless, and some are even highly creative. Unfortunately, potentially life-threatening challenges also go viral from time to time, and they present great dangers to kids chasing TikTok fame. These trends are almost always changing, but we wanted to give you a guide to some of the ones that have gained the most attention — good and bad. 

Funny Trends

Humor is a big part of TikTok, and puns, skits, and humorous observations are common all throughout the platform, no matter what the subject matter is. Trends revolving around the same format or sound go viral often, relying on the power of hashtags. 

Waking up in the morning

Blonde woman in TikTok video

This trend features lyrics to a child singing song about trying to get over a challenging time in life. Then, it jump-cuts to a video of something from the user’s past that was embarrassing or awkward. This trend works especially well for Gen Z, as they often have a lot of easily accessible (and cringey!) video footage from when they were younger.

Psychedelic clown

Woman with clown makeup holding cat

Another humorous self-deprecating trend, these videos incorporate a colorful, interactive clown filter with silly music. People use it to recount times they “were a clown” — that is, when they did something silly or embarrassing. Using the clown emoji while texting means the same thing!

Creative Trends

Regardless of what you think about TikTok, it’s hard not to be impressed by some of the craftsmanship that goes into the production of some videos. Splicing together scenes, adding sound effects, and embedding text are just a few of the ways users express themselves. These types of trends urge users to find something about their inner world or life experiences and share it with others.

Day in the life

Woman drinking from large cup

Curious about all of the different activities a person does in a day? With this trend, users make a mash-up of their daily routines, all set to a sprightly tune. There are thousands of videos in this genre, featuring kids, teens, and adults from cities all over the world and from all walks of life. 

What’s a video that lives in your head rent-free?

Woman with glasses leaning on elbow

 These videos all start with the same clip of a woman asking for an example of a video that people love (“rent-free” just means that you think about it a lot for no reason). Users then pick a favorite scene from a movie, TV show, or meme to splice to question video.

Age-Inappropriate Trends

While TikTok is popular with kids, it’s also very popular with adults, too. This means that sometimes trends may catch on that were never meant to spread to children — especially trends that feature sexually charged themes. 

Silhouette challenge

This NSFW challenge features a red-light filter and a quick-change edit to the user standing provocatively in a doorway — sometimes with lingerie, sometimes with nothing at all. Meant to originally be a body-empowerment trend for adults, it was soon upended by controversy as an editing trick to reverse-engineer the filter was leaked. Because the video creators are often wearing little clothing, without the filter they become exposed — a potentially dangerous situation for underage users.

Buss it challenge

A popular song by singer Erica Banks serves as the soundtrack to this challenge, which requires users to squat down in slow motion and bounce. While it doesn’t have to be suggestive — and many versions aren’t — the majority tend to amp it up to the R-rated level.

Dangerous TikTok Trends

These are the kind of TikTok trends that you hear about in the news — challenges that kids flock to and then end up injured or worse. Often, they stem from rumors that everyday, household objects may lead to getting high or result in an unexpected physical effect. 

Kids can be quick to try things they see online, especially when their peers are posting videos about it on their favorite platform and trying it out may result in a spike in popularity. When they’re at this age, kids are still learning to evaluate what’s true and what’s false. At the end of the day, they’re still kids — and the part of their brains responsible for critical thinking is still developing.

Note: While the examples below were prominent a while back, viral trends have been known to return every so often, like the Momo Challenge.

Benadryl challenge

This trend revolves around teens daring each other to take large quantities of Benadryl, an anti-allergy medicine, in order to trigger hallucinations. While the pill usually just makes you sleepy, when taken in large enough doses, it can be fatal. This tragic challenge is incredibly dangerous and has resulted in the death of a teen.

Blackout challenge

Another deadly trend involves holding one’s breath (manually or while using something like a belt) until you pass out. Also known as the “Pass Out Challenge,” this activity can cause kids to lose consciousness — sometimes to the point of brain damage or death. 

Morning-after-pill challenge

A rumor that pregnancy tests contain secret “Plan B” emergency contraception pills turned into a dangerous trend this past winter. The company that manufactures the tests tried to quell the viral trend by explaining that the tablet is just silica gel meant to absorb moisture, but countless teens have tried it. 

Like all fads, TikTok trends come and go. It’s important to have regular conversations with your kids about the kinds of things they’re watching on the platform. This way, you can get a feel for what they’re being exposed to. Talk about the dangers as well as the potential consequences of the more worrisome challenges. And if you’re looking for some kid-friendly accounts that are light on danger, we’ve got some suggestions the whole family will enjoy!

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