Why are kids destroying school property for digital ‘likes’?

Peer pressure is nothing new, but social media has amplified children’s evolutionary need for rebellion. Here’s how parents can help.

From forgotten locker numbers to first loves, Dawn Kiely knew that starting high school would bring new challenges for her two 15-year-old sons. She didn’t think going to the bathroom would be one of them. 

“A few weeks ago, my kids came home and ran straight to the bathroom,” says the mom from West Palm Beach, Florida. “Apparently, they hadn’t been able to use the restroom all day at school, because there were a bunch of kids pulling pranks based on inspiration from TikTok videos—they were removing sinks from the bathroom and pulling up toilets.”

Indeed, a TikTok trend known as “Devious Licks,” in which kids record themselves stealing things from their schools (“lick” is slang for a theft), is resulting in students being suspended and even arrested—and costing school districts across the country thousands of dollars in damages. The trend started small, with one student posting a video of himself pulling a box of disposable masks from his backpack with the caption “absolutely devious lick,” according to the website Know Your Meme. But within a month, people had posted close to 94,200 similar videos using hashtags #deviouslicks or #diabolicallicks, showing everything from stealing pricey microscopes and spray painting walls to allegedly causing more than $10,000 worth of damage discharging fire extinguishers and smashing school bus windows.

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