Last month, a Whangārei school principal sent out a newsletter bringing to light an ongoing TikTok craze, and urged students to refrain from taking part in the “unsafe practice”.
Addressing the TikTok trend where teenagers are forcing themselves to pass out, Whangārei Girls High School principal Anne Cooper wrote “…Although we know some of the films posted are fake, some of them are also real.
“Please discuss this unsafe practice with your students to educate them of the dangers…”
Northland health professionals have labelled the ‘blackout’ trend as “potentially life-threatening” and the Advocate outlined the legal responsibility on the social media giant here, and there lies none, so far.
Barrister Chris Patterson says in the worst-case scenario, the Mental Health Act will kick into play and the individual taking part in videos, harming themselves, can be put intohospital. There is still no law to hold TikTok or any social media platforms accountable for digital self-harm.
However, Patterson said the platforms had a moral duty to encourage young people to engage in healthy activities and “certainly” to not promote harmful content.
“As a parent of young people, you’ve just got to ask yourself what is going wrong with our family, community and our society, where teens are wanting to behave like this?
“Teenagers since the dawn of time have done stupid things but this is another level.”
For young people, however, the common denominator for taking part in harmful online trends is usually drama, desperation, a terrible sense of hopelessness or distorted thinking, said the expert.
Whangārei’s Miriam Centre counselling centre director Patsy Henderson-Watt said there was an awful lot of “hysteria” around TikTok and it could lead to self-harm but it was still a big part of a young person’s life.
“Digital self-harm makes it seem okay and fun, when it should not be.
“It becomes sinister on social media because you get motivation from other like-minded individuals. They (teenagers) get very distorted.”
Henderson-Watt said kids feel safe to do so if their friends or classmates also took part in the trend.
“They try to outdo each other. Young people are no different from any other age group, they are humans trying to find out who they are. Part of it is about distorted thinking that they get into along with others.
“Young people are experimenting with things, and often are traumatised and bullied for it. The same happens on TikTok and other digital platforms.”
Henderson-Watt said it came down to basic parenting when keeping an eye out on kids with regards to cyber-bullying or digital self-harm.
“Parents should be more involved with the kids’ lives.
“It’s okay to have fun with them.
“Take our young people seriously. Instead of blatantly denying teenagers to do something, reason with them.”
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