Brendan Gahan, a partner and chief social officer for the digital agency Mekanism, said #deviouslicks were like senior pranks before the internet age, as well as other internet antics — like “gallon smashing,” (people recording themselves destroying milk cartons in grocery stores) and “stealing LeBron’s head,” (from the toy action figure of the basketball player LeBron James).
“It’s all teen rebellion, but it’s just on a different medium,” Mr. Gahan said. “There’s something innately attractive about conflict, and it being rebellious. TikTok allows people to share, and display, that behavior, on a scale that’s not really been available before.”
But this rebellion is expensive for schools.
The North East Independent district, in San Antonio, is making students — and their families — pay hundreds of dollars in damages to each school, according to the district. The district hasn’t ruled out pressing charges for more serious thefts.
According to a district spokeswoman, Aubrey Chancellor, five out of the six high schools in the district are reporting thefts ranging from stolen soap dispensers to fire extinguishers. One school saw shattered mirrors. Custodians, and other maintenance staff workers, have to clean up after the students.
“Once we’ve identified the student, it’s the parents who are going to pay,” Ms. Chancellor said. “It’s not monetary. It’s the principle of the matter.”
Both Ms. Brennan and Mr. Gahan doubt that either TikTok or school districts will be able to stop the trend, likening any efforts to the Streisand effect, meaning that the more authorities try to deter students from stealing, the more they actually encourage it.
“I’m not saying schools shouldn’t send out these notices,” Mr. Gahan said. “But it might be better to deprive it of oxygen, than acknowledge, or even push against it.”