The Other Pandemic: Social Media, Devious Licks and the Lure of Likes

My habits aren’t much better than the kids. It’s the precious puppies, adorable babies and delightful dance videos that draw me into the clutches of social media. The feel good stuff. The way in which it connects us to others. But I recognize that social media is not always sunshine and roses. There is a dark side. Manipulation. The way that it attracts today’s youth. The manner in which social media is used to encourage the most abhorrent of actions is far too prevalent. Enter the Devious Licks challenge.

The Other Pandemic: Social Media, Devious Licks and the Lure of Likes

Epidemiology of a Disease

During a discussion with another parent about Devious Licks and these new {social media} lows, I was asked if we were this kind of dumb when we were kids. I would like to think not, but I cannot say for certain. We grew up in a time when phones were attached to walls and the thought of using a telephone receiver as a video recorder to send tiny motion pictures around the world in a split second would have sounded ludicrous. But here we are. Things are not the same. Ding Dong Ditch and prank calls don’t even register on the scale of childhood foolishness on display today. The more outrageous the act, the more attention it is likely to generate. And that is the name of the game.

Likes. Loves. Shares. Views. Social media is an extraordinary host and the challenges don’t stop. The desire to go viral is in and of itself a virus. The effectiveness of social media apps has made dumb contagious and helped to create an entirely different kind of pandemic. 

Devious Licks: A New Strain

It has become so common that new ridiculousness barely causes me to react. Perhaps a smirk. Or a side-eye. Rarely an audible word. However, Devious Licks got me. September was bad. It was bad bad. Check Google. Kids across the nation were afflicted with the desire to brutalize school restrooms – then videotape and share their exploits on Tik Tok. Bad bad. School districts in Houston and around the nation have been vandalized and forced to respond to the challenge. Both school districts in my realm – the one where I work and the other where I live – also fell victim to the challenge.

But the October task in the TikTok #DeviousLick challenge is on a whole other level. A calendar of #DeviousLick tasks for each month through July 2022 is currently making social media rounds. Each of the tasks… not so good. The alleged October Devious Licks task dares students to slap a teacher or a school staff member.

TikTok has already removed videos containing the Devious Licks hashtag. Credit to TikTok for demonstrating some semblance of decency. But the Tik Tokers will not be stopped; new hashtags with slight variations can still be found using the deleted hashtag. Credit to the kids for their ability to adapt and persevere. May they all learn to use these skills in the future for good and not evil.

It Ain’t Close to Over But I Am Over It

I spent a lot of years teaching in a classroom. I’ve spent even more years parenting. I can say with absolute certainty that there are few things more abhorrent in the learning environment than the idea of students slapping educators for attention and entertainment.

Treating What Ails Us

These kids… they are not right just yet. One minute they are being inducted into the honor society and the next minute they are falling from a five foot stack of milk crates. Teen mind and sound mind live at opposite ends of the continuum.

So have all the conversations. Talk to your kids about Devious Licks. And listen to your kids. Give them the opportunity to consider the consequences of these actions by asking them a few {rhetorical} questions like…

  • On a scale of 1-10, how stupid is it to record and engage in illegal activities at school and share them on social media?
  • If you saw a video of you running out of a school restroom carrying a urinal, would you hire you?
  • Can you talk to me about the benefits of setting a restroom on fire?
  • How many days after you post a video of yourself ripping soap dispensers off the wall will the video self-destruct, never to be seen again?
  • Where are you and your classmates going to pee when all the toilets are laying horizontally on the restroom floor?
  • When someone googles your name, would you like for them to find your Facebook profile photo or your mugshot?

Allofus. ALLOFUS, I say – should make no assumptions about what our kids will and will not do at any moment in time. We aaaaall think – not my kid… until it’s our kid.

And all it takes is one bad decision to ruin a life.

The impact on our kids when negative influences are left unchecked and unchallenged, combined with the need for affirmation from their peers, is a dangerous thing. After the Devious Licks challenge passes, there will be another. So the ability to make good decisions is more important than ever. I’d like to think that positive influence and guidance from parents supersedes the power of any app a kid can download. I’d also like to think we, the parents, are the best medicine for treating the sick and icky parts of social media. 

Not a Doctor and I Don’t Even Play One on TV

I have been a parent for 24 years and I still don’t know what the hell I am doing 51% of the time. So, I won’t even to attempt to advise allofus. Just consider this a conversation between friends regarding kid-related current events. A share so that you are in the know, because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Babies, Puppies and Dance Videos Please and Thanks

My 15-year-old daughter thinks the October Devious Licks challenge is very likely just a hoax. She said no one is going to slap a teacher, and she laughed at me because I asked her about the monthly #deviouslicks calendar. She thinks it is someone’s {not so funny} plan to get under the skin of the “older people” and manipulate us into overreacting while they laugh at our naiveté. I really hope she is right.

I might even let her teach me a Tik Tok dance to celebrate.


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Joi was born and raised in San Antonio. After a brief pit stop at the University of Texas in Austin, Joi moved to Houston in 1994 and began checking boxes off her never ending to do list. During this time and in no particular order, Joi taught a little bit of everything between first and eighth grades, got married and then divorced, completed grad school, birthed a few babies – Ferris {November 1997}, Warren {December 1999} and Laylah {March 2006}, moved an old lady into her home – Granny {January 1925} started working in Human Resources, served an excessive amount of time (on boards, in booster clubs, team momming) as a crazy sports momma, and learned a lot of life lessons. Joi is known for her unabashed honesty, always present sense of humor and her #TeamTooMuch style of doing everything. On most days, you can find her caught up in her love/hate relationship with politics, feeding her Facebook addiction, or counting the number of days until her last child graduates from high school.

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