“We are writing to inform you and not alarm you,” school administrators of Oak Park and River Forest High School, Illinois said in an email to parents.
“We have been made aware of a nationwide viral TikTok trend … on Friday, 17 December the letter added.
In Florida, the Citrus County school district released a statement on Thursday urging parents and students not to promote the social media post.
“It seems students, along with parents, are either sharing a post or manipulating the original post to reflect a new threat at a specific school. This is creating disruption at many of our schools today,” read the statement that was posted on the district’s Facebook page.
A few districts announced plans to close school buildings on Friday, including Gilroy High School in northern California. Even though Gilroy police said they had found threats on social media not to be credible, school officials decided to postpone final exams that were scheduled for Friday to January out of caution.
The viral TikTok thread comes just days after a student opened fire at a Michigan high school, killing five students.
The abhorrent school shooting trends show how prominent violence in media directly affects children.
Movieguide® Founder and Publisher Dr. Ted Baehr addressed this alarming concern in his book, The Media-Wise Family.
“There have been hundreds of thousands of psychiatric, psychological, sociological, pediatric, and medical studies researching the effects of the mass media on behavior, including laboratory experiments, field experiments, correlational studies, and longitudinal studies.[i] So much research has been conducted in this area that many newspapers and top US government officials have concluded that the influence of the mass media on violent behavior is now irrefutable,” Baehr writes.
“Most people are unaware of this research because we get so much of our information from television, and television and other media executives have a self-interest in not emphasizing their influence on human behavior, except to exploit it through commercials,” he says.
Research into this area can be divided into deductive reasoning from prior principles and inductive reasoning from a set of specific observations. Using deductive reasoning, researchers posit the basic principles of human learning and then see if any of them predict a causal relation. Using inductive reasoning, researchers study the real-life behavior of a person after that person has been exposed to a measurable degree of excessive violence, pornography or other media influence.
There are several principles of learning from which experts deduce the influence of entertainment.
One is the principle of modeling. Research shows that children imitate, even from the moment of birth. Children follow the examples that are set for them, not only in real life, but also in literature. Parables are examples of teaching tales people have used to help children learn how to live. Research shows that the entertainment media provide “scripts” for a child’s future behavior.
Studies have looked at the real-life behavior of children and have counted their episodes of imitation of the violent or non-violent behavior.
In general, these laboratory studies demonstrate that when you present to children a filmed model of someone doing something, children are more likely to do that something after having seen the film. Experiments have shown that withdrawn children can even learn to socialize better if they are shown a video of a child gradually starting to make friends.
A second basic principle of learning is that the more one practices a behavior, the more ingrained it becomes. Even practice in imagination, or fantasy rehearsal, is an effective way of ingraining a pattern. For young children, dramatic play is the prototypical fantasy rehearsal method.
The third is the principle of reinforcement which holds that behavior that gets rewarded, gets repeated. Vicarious reinforcement also works. Characters in action and adventure movies are rewarded for their proficiency in violence. Often the reward for a male is the admiration of a beautiful woman.
The power of modeling, practice and reinforcement in human learning predict that media violence increases the likelihood of real-life violence.[i]
The California medical association study found that 22% of all crime committed by juveniles is directly copied after what is seen in television programs right down to the minute gory details.[ii] A study published in the JOURNAL OF THEAMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION shows one-third of the young male prisoners convicted of violent crimes say they were consciously imitating techniques they learned from television.[iii]
Viral TikTok trends have already wreaked havoc on schools and are causing developmental issues in children who use the app. While limiting social media may help lower the effects of the platform, the ultimate answer is for parents to teach their children media literacy and wisdom so they can appropriately discern what they’re consuming.
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