Dallas, TX (December 22, 2021) - A disturbing “TikTok Challenge” that emerged on the eve of December 17 resulted in a significant spike in threats of school violence, sparking fear among students. According to data released by student safety company Gaggle, alerts of possible school violence and online chatter among students about potential shootings and weapons on campus jumped 1,086% overnight on December 16, leading into the last day of the school semester before the holiday break.
“It is extraordinarily disturbing that a so-called ‘challenge’ on social media promoting school violence could gain so much traction and spur such anxiety and fear among students,” said Gaggle founder and CEO Jeff Patterson. “We’re grateful schools took these threats seriously and potential acts of violence were ultimately averted. Fortunately, students were readily sharing information with their teachers about the threats they saw on social media—but this is another reminder that our children are in crisis and need additional support from trusted adults who can offer guidance and support to students who may be in distress.”
Gaggle released this chart illustrating the surge in threats, which clearly shows a massive spike in student safety incidents referencing school shootings on the night in question. Between 10:00 PM on December 16 and 7:00 AM on December 17, Gaggle flagged 166 student safety incidents, reaching out to the school district’s designated contacts in each case to help ensure student safety and well-being during this time of accelerated threats.
From midnight until 5:00 AM local time, Gaggle flagged more than 20 concerning incidents each hour—more than what is typically seen each night. In fact, incidents on this particular evening increased tenfold from the same time frame one night prior, when Gaggle flagged just 14 concerning incidents referencing school shootings between 10:00 PM and 7:00 AM.
Dr. Lisa Strohman, recognized child psychologist and the founder and CEO of Digital Citizen Academy, said, “In a social media-driven world, children are being influenced to be a part of what trends in the world. Messaging about violence and school shootings is no different. It is harmful, it is dangerous, and it is something that should never be tolerated.”
Although Gaggle does not monitor students’ private social media accounts or web browser history, the company identified a surge in chats and messages sent through school-provided technologies (including Google Workspace for Education, Microsoft 365, Google Chat, Microsoft Teams, and the Canvas learning management system).
Gaggle shared examples of the flagged messages that emerged overnight on December 16, many of them illustrating panicked students reaching out to alert teachers of the threats swirling on social media:
- “I just wanted to say that I’m very worried. I’m really afraid I’m going to die in this situation with school shooting and bomb threats.”
- “A student said he gunna shoot up the school and the tiktok trends aren’t making it any better”
- “hello [staff member] Someone on Snapchat posted that they were gonna shoot up [our] schools. I’m very scared.”
- “Hey! Sorry i know its late but i don't know if you have already heard but there is an instagram page called [REDACTED] and whoever is running the account posted just a couple minutes ago ‘[school] will be shot up yall will never know the date or time trust me.....’”
Earlier this fall, Gaggle released its annual State of Student Safety report for the 2020–21 school year, which showed a 104% increase in threats of violence in schools over the 2019–20 school year. More than 3,300 of those incidents required fast intervention from school emergency officials. Learn more and view the 2020–21 annual report.
Visit www.gaggle.net to learn more about Gaggle.
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About Gaggle | www.gaggle.net
Since 1999, Gaggle has been the leader in helping K-12 districts manage student safety on school-provided technology. Using a powerful combination of artificial intelligence and trained safety experts, the safety solution proactively assists districts 24/7/365 in the prevention of student suicide, bullying, inappropriate behaviors, school violence, and other harmful situations. Most importantly, Gaggle continues to help hundreds of districts avoid tragedies and save lives, while also protecting their liability. During the 2020–21 academic year, Gaggle helped districts save the lives of 1,408 students who were planning or actively attempting suicide. For more information, visit www.gaggle.net and follow Gaggle on Twitter at @Gaggle_K12.