Schools and social media safety experts are warning parents and children to avoid viewing a video on TikTok that shows an American man taking his own life — and explaining what to do if they have already seen it.
- The video, originally live streamed on Facebook, has been widely viewed since it was posted
- Parents are urged to keep their children off social media, including Twitter and Instagram, over the coming days
- Distressing content should be reported to TikTok and to esafety.gov.au
Safe on Social CEO Kirra Pendergast sent an alert to 7,000 schools today, advising them to warn students and parents about the content.
Ms Pendergast also posted this warning on the cyber safety consultancy’s Facebook page:
“We strongly recommend keeping your children offline today if possible, and heavily supervise all social media interactions until this content is removed.
“Check with your children to determine if they have viewed this clip.
“They are likely to be extremely distressed.”
Ms Pendergast said the video, which was originally live streamed on Facebook, had also been shared on Twitter and Instagram but had been taken down from most platforms after being reported.
However, she said, the video was still being viewed by thousands on TikTok, and was being embedded within other videos designed to appeal to children.
“It’s like what we called Elsagate — which was when Elsa from Frozen got some full-on treatment with people posting two minutes into a video some obscene things happening to Elsa,” Ms Pendergast said.
TikTok issued the following statement when contacted by the ABC:
“On Sunday night (US time), clips of a suicide that had been live streamed on Facebook circulated on other platforms, including TikTok.
“Our systems have been automatically detecting and flagging these clips for violating our policies against content that displays, praises, glorifies or promotes suicide.
“We are banning accounts that repeatedly try to upload clips, and we appreciate our community members who’ve reported content and warned others against watching, engaging, or sharing such videos on any platform out of respect for the person and their family.
“If anyone in our community is struggling with thoughts of suicide or concerned about someone who is, we encourage them to seek support, and we provide access to hotlines directly from our app and in our Safety Centre.”
Keep children off social media
Ms Pendergast was this morning presenting at a New South Wales high school where hundreds of students said they had already seen the video.
“I’ve also had numerous parents contact me on Facebook to say they’ve seen it,” she said.
“Kids are curious, they click on things, and this is turning up in some cases.”
Ms Pendergast advised parents to keep their children off social media, particularly TikTok, over the coming days if possible.
“For parents of little kids, make sure they’re not on TikTok for at least a few days — artificial intelligence will crawl across these apps and pull it all eventually — just explain that TikTok is broken or something like that,” she said.
“For older kids, talk about it, and explain how to report distressing content.
“People need to report it to the platform they see it on, but they can also go to esafety.gov.au and report it there as harmful or illegal content.”
Ms Pendergast also said it was important to seek help for children who had already seen the content.
“This can be a big trigger for a lot of people, so you need to be careful how you speak about it and share Kids Helpline and Beyond Blue contacts,” she said.
“We need to talk about how to look out for your friends, online and off, and kids need to know they can’t fix this stuff, they need an adult to help them.
“They’re seeing too much, too young, and this is disturbing for anyone at any age.”