Parents need to ‘get a grip’ and stop their children joining dangerous TikTok crazes, a policing leader said yesterday.
Donna Jones, the new chairman of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC), issued a stern warning as she revealed teenagers in Southampton took paracetamol over the weekend in a social media challenge to see who could stay in hospital the longest.
It comes just days after flash-mob looting in London’s Oxford Street, which was prompted by videos and screenshots trending on social media encouraging youngsters to rob J D Sports and other stores.
Ms Jones says parents must speak to their children as she blasted video-hosting service TikTok and other sites for not ‘preventing these challenges which are facilitating criminal activity’. She wants youngsters to be fined by magistrates’ courts if they join looters, so parents realise there is a cost to their behaviour.
Ms Jones said: ‘These TikTok flash mobs are ridiculous. We’ve had a load of kids in Southampton take paracetamol over the weekend following a TikTok challenge to see who can get hospitalised and stay in there the longest.
Police and large groups of young people in Oxford Circus hours after the mass TikTok crime was due to take place
Flash-mob looting in London’s Oxford Street, which was prompted by videos and screenshots trending on social media encouraging youngsters to rob J D Sports and other stores
TikTok prankster Mizzy was seen by police in the area days after failing to appear before magistrates for breaching a court order and issued a dispersal order
‘Parents need to get a grip of what their children are doing.
‘It’s not for the police to instil a sense of what is right and wrong, it is for the parents. It’s not down to the police to prevent these things happening. Parents have a responsibility to sit down and speak to these kids about what is going on TikTok, how these things are not fun, people will die, it is not sensible to do this and don’t feel the peer pressure that you have to.’
The Met Police were forced to divert officers to Oxford Street over the weekend and put a dispersal order in place to combat the threat of social media-induced looting. Large numbers of officers then had to flock to retail areas in Southend and Bexleyheath in the following days to prevent copycat attacks.
Ms Jones, the Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner, went on: ‘Any parent or guardian who believes their child was involved in what happened in Oxford Street last week, you should be sitting down with them and having a strong word with them, because actually what they did was completely criminal.
‘It could completely screw up their future in terms of employment opportunities if they are arrested or receive a caution. There needs to be a push back here, societally, to say to parents, “what are you doing to make sure that your kids know that this is not acceptable behaviour?”
‘There needs to be some recognition that police resources are already stretched. Because they were turning up to this flash mob-looting TikTok planned event in Oxford Street, they weren’t then turning up to serious crimes like domestic violence where people’s lives were at risk, not turning up to road traffic accidents where they could have been literally saving people’s lives.’
Ms Jones became the youngest ever magistrate in England and Wales at the age of 27, serving for 16 years before taking up her latest role.
She said: ‘These crazes and phases and flash mob-type things can be dangerous. This was organised theft, organised looting – TikTok is being used to facilitate crime in those incidents.
‘The majority of TikTok is not used in this way, but certainly in these incidents, it is being used as a way to facilitate mass looting and one of the biggest planned shoplifting events in the country we have had in years.’
Ms Jones raised the prospect that the company, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Chinese technology firm ByteDance, could be fined for hosting content if it leads to a crime.
Essex Police has set up a dispersal zone for the next 48 hours following posts threatening to spread the social media chaos to Southend-on-Sea (officers are pictured speaking to youths)
Police officers try to stop youths as they run out of a McDonalds store on Oxford Street in central London on August 9
People react during a shoplifting spree flash mob on Oxford Street in London on Wednesday August 9
‘There could be consequences for them if they don’t govern their social media channels effectively.
‘If it is not closing this down and preventing these challenges which are facilitating criminal activity, I could see some fines for them. It’s certainly something the Government should be looking at. TikTok have got a part to play here.’
TikTok denied responsibility for the Oxford Street flash mob looting, claiming that other social media was responsible.
A spokesman said: ‘We have seen no evidence to support these claims and we have zero tolerance for content facilitating or encouraging criminal activities. We have over 40,000 safety professionals dedicated to keeping TikTok safe – if we find content of this nature, we remove it and actively engage with law enforcement on these issues.’