Three teenagers have been arrested and charged with making terroristic threats. The threats were allegedly made as part of an alarming new TikTok challenge.
Three 15-year-old high school students in Oldham County, Kentucky, have been arrested — two of whom were charged with terroristic threatening in the second degree, while the third was charged with terroristic threatening in the third degree, according to CBS News. While the names of the students were not released because they are minors, reports indicate that they attended Oldham County High School and South Oldham High School.
In mid-August, each of the students allegedly recorded videos of themselves telling their teachers that they had a bomb or a gun in their backpack as a “joke,” police reports indicate. Ultimately, the threats turned out to be a hoax — but further investigation revealed that the “joke” was part of an alarming TikTok challenge.
The Chinese social media app TikTok has a history of promoting dangerous challenges that, in some cases, have led to the deaths of several children. One such trend was the “blackout challenge,” where kids were encouraged to asphyxiate themselves to the point of passing out — which led to the death of a 12-year-old boy.
TikTok CEO Shou Chew can't say how many children have died because of dangerous "challenges" on TikTok. pic.twitter.com/oZurG7yQNA
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) March 23, 2023
Three students have been suspended by the school district, and have been ordered to undergo a complete mental health screening prior to returning to school.
In a statement responding to the incidents, Oldham County School District’s director of student services Eric Davis noted that the district is “going to take every single threat seriously because our students deserve to go to a school that’s safe.”
The Oldham County School District also sent a letter to all parents in the school system warning them about the shocking TikTok challenge.
“As previously communicated in a letter to families regarding terroristic threatening, students who participate in this type of behavior face serious consequences,” read the letter, which was obtained by local news outlet WDRB. “In addition to school-level discipline, students are prosecuted to the greatest extent of the law for making a threat to a public school.”
“Whether written or spoken, all threats are taken seriously, and students need to know the repercussions of these actions, both short and long-term,” the letter continued. “Even if they are not credible threats, they can cause a great deal of stress or anxiety for our students, families, and staff.”
The videos made by the three students were removed by TikTok at the school district’s request. The district has urged parents to monitor their children’s social media accounts, as well as to contact law enforcement if they see anyone else making terroristic threats — even if those threats are part of a TikTok challenge.
In a statement to WDRB, University of Louisville professor of strategic communications Dr. Karen Freberg described this TikTok challenge as part of a “new digital warfare.”
“It’s kind of the new digital warfare – in many ways – that we’re kind of seeing being played out in various circles,” she told the local outlet.
“Parents need to be a partner with their kids to educate, to learn, and to have these open discussions about the risks and dangerous sides of these kinds of trends,” Freberg added.