Warning over social media challenge that saw teenagers overdosing on paracetamol to see who could stay in hospital the longest – as police chief calls for parents of ‘TikTok yobs’ to be fined over ‘morally abhorrent’ behaviour
- Teenagers are taking paracetamol to see who can stay in hospital the longest
- Hampshire’s police commissioner urged parents to talk to their children
Teenagers in Southampton are overdosing on paracetamol as part of a TikTok challenge to see who can stay in hospital the longest, the new chair of The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) has warned.
Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Donna Jones, said ‘kids’ in Southampton this weekend took part in a social media challenge that saw them take over-the-counter painkillers to ‘see who can get hospitalised and stay the longest’.
The Conservative police commissioner, who was elected as the new chair of the APCC this July, also called for the parents of TikTok yobs to be fined if their children participate in morally ‘abhorrent’ criminal behaviour fueled by social media crazes.
Her comments 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 take part in raids on shops including J D Sports.
The police chief accused TikTok of failing to prevent challenges that are ‘facilitating criminal activity’ as she claimed the ‘ridiculous’ crazes being spread on social media are an ‘indication of societal breakdown’.
APCC chairwoman Donna Jones said parents should be disciplining their children and teaching them right from wrong (Andrew Matthews/PA)
A flash-mob took part in looting on London’s Oxford Street after posts were shared on TikTok
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
Ms Jones, formerly Britain’s youngest magistrate, noted the TikTok craze in Southampton saw a ‘handful’ of 15 to 17-year-olds take overdoses of paracetamol to see who could stay in hospital the longest.
‘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,’ she said.
The Hampshire police commissioner in turn warned social media-fueled criminality had already been seen in America as she suggested similar trends may soon become common in the UK.
READ MORE: TikTok tearaway chaos spreads to Southend: Balaclava-clad youths heading to Essex seaside town are stopped by police after social media post invited people to ‘get lit’ on the beach following the Oxford Street ‘shoplifting’ carnage
‘This has not just suddenly appeared from nowhere. We’ve seen the warning signs of this coming for a really long time. We know these type of incidents are happening in America, and what happens in America very often gets here within a 12-month period,’ Ms Jones said.
She also called on parents to 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 argued youngsters should be fined by magistrates’ courts if they join looters, so parents realise there is a cost to their behaviour.
‘Parents need to get a grip of what their children are doing,’ she said.
‘It’s not for the police to instill 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.
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
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.
‘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 for the social media platform 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.’
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