Since TikTok’s rise to fame in 2018 (amplified by the global pandemic), teenagers up and down the country have incorporated TikTok into their daily routines. For hours and hours a day, young people scroll through For You pages, mindlessly watching 5-second clips for light amusement.

Harmless fun?

Of course, TikTok has its benefits: it contains funny or informative content in short doses, catered to every generation. It also gives young people a platform to harmlessly express themselves in ways they wouldn’t elsewhere. But as with any social media, there are certain dangers. One concern is that TikTok’s content often isn’t censored. With 30.8 million daily active users on the site as of December 2021, you never know what you might find. However, a particularly dangerous avenue of TikTok comes from its trends. Enticing and amusing, when an easy dance or a funny sound appears, many of us are intrigued to try it — whether it be for views or a bit of fun. But when does pack-like behaviour to conform with what’s popular go too far? And should parents be scared of a harmless TikTok trend potentially costing their child’s life?

Trouble with Trends

TikTok’s predecessor,, worked on a different basis, containing popular music to lip-sync and easy dances (such as shuffling). When TikTok replaced it in 2018, more and more people used it as a place to express themselves and be creative. From dancing to story times, cosplay to cooking, there was something for everyone. This even leaked into the mainstream media, with companies all over the world now advertising through TikTok trends, including Duolingo, M&S, and even BBC News.

But four years on and trends have taken a fearful turn. They can now involve teenagers risking their lives for views. Take the Blackout challenge (holding one’s breath until passing out). Or the Benadryl challenge (taking excess amounts of allergy medication). The Cha Cha Slide challenge (reckless driving). Or maybe the Penny challenge (risk of fire and electrocution). These self-dares are just a few of the things done in the name of good fun. And let’s not forget one of the most popular trends at the beginning of the year — Devious Licking — where students would destroy school property to take home. This particular trend got so bad in America that some schools had to ban students from using toilets during the day because people had ripped out sink units, leaving bare leaking pipes on display. Still harmless teenage fun?

Despite these acts of irresponsible deviousness and in some cases vandalism being mad and barbaric, hashtags relating to them have received thousands of uploads. And these are just the uploads. Many more actively try the trends with unpredictable consequences. The worst of them is that children can lose their lives at the hands of popular trends. In July 2022, the parents of two girls, who died after trying the Blackout challenge, attempted to sue TikTok on the grounds that the platform is ‘addictive’ and was ‘directing children to dangerous content.’ As of December 2022, it is thought that over 80 young people have died after trying the Blackout challenge alone. Harrowing statistics like these show how dangerous social media can be and the lack of safety measures in place to monitor what children as young as 12 are exposed to under the banner of teenage kicks.

One of the most frightening problems involving TikTok is that young people may not be aware that they are being exposed to something dangerous and life-threatening. Keywords that can trigger mental health disorders (such as anorexia, bulimia, suicide etc.) are blocked. When searched, the viewer is directed to relevant helplines. However, change one or two letters to symbols, and toxic content pops right up like a smorgasbord. The videos posted often glorify eating disorders or other dangerous habits. Imagine a 12-year-old coming across this accidentally.

Enticing or Engulfing?

You may be thinking, ‘Yeah, but you could just choose not to do life-threatening trends though, right?’ Just don’t do something you know is dangerous. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. What sets TikTok apart from other forms of social media is its supersonic speed of content delivery. Unlike TV and film, there’s no need to sit for hours to become engaged with the material. Just five or ten seconds is enough to watch an entire TikTok video, making it tempting to click on another and another. This scrolling through TikTok acts as an instant dopamine release, rewarding the brain with pleasure at the end of five seconds and with hardly any effort required. This becomes a cycle. The brain gets hooked to frequent hits of dopamine and suddenly that innocent time-filler you enjoyed spirals into a fully-fledged addiction.

Withdrawal from TikTok, as one re-enters the real world, can leave a person feeling low in mood and craving that quick hit of enjoyment. With teenagers already going through hormonal highs and lows, exposing them to possible withdrawal symptoms is a recipe for disaster. In all probability,  exposure to trends is more or less inevitable due to the tendency towards scrolling. The same can be said for taking part in them. For many teenagers, the buzz of trying something new and supposedly ‘fun’ blindsides them to the possible and real dangers.

A question now routinely asked: Is TikTok doing anything to protect its users? Well yes, but not sufficiently or efficiently. No parent should have to feel scared of letting their child use what originated as harmless social media. As a frequent TikTok user myself, I am not advocating TikTok abstinence. Despite its dark side, the platform remains enjoyable and entertaining and we all need a bit of lightness every now and again. However, measures do need to be put in place to prevent any more young lives from being lost. Those 80 or so deaths were entirely avoidable.

DISCLAIMER: The articles on our website are not endorsed by, or the opinions of Shout Out UK (SOUK), but exclusively the views of the author.