Devious licks: The TikTok trend that had students stealing stuff from school

October 15th, 2021

Meanwhile in the U.S., many schools are currently going back to having face-to-face classes amid the new normal.  While the schools are adjusting to having students roaming the halls once more, they’re also dealing with a bit of teenage rebellion, in the form of students stealing stuff because of a TikTok trend gone viral. However, what seems to be meant as an innocent prank that stemmed from a social media trend may be more serious than it looks, because this TikTok trend has promoted theft and vandalism. 

“Devious licks” has become very popular on TikTok, a trend wherein students post videos of themselves fishing out from their backpacks stuff they supposedly stole from school. The trend started on TikTok in early September, and now has about 92,000 videos on the platform, according to Know Your Meme. 

What do the students steal? All kinds of stuff, really – soap dispensers, paper towel holders, fire alarms, washroom mirrors – you name it. Someone even managed to steal a teacher’s desk. 

It all began with a TikTok user who shared a video wherein they pull out a box of disposable masks from a backpack, supposedly stolen from school. The hashtag on the video was “absolute devious lick” and had garnered plenty of attention with over 239,000 views. Just days after this video, another video followed, this time the stolen item was hand sanitizer, and the video had 7.2 million views. 

Aside from stealing, it looks like the trend has also promoted vandalism, as students have also nabbed ceiling tiles, toilets, hand-railings and even bathroom stalls. (I wonder if that means they’ve stolen a toilet seat? In that case, the Weasley twins would be so proud.) 

Students would post the videos on TikTok, using the hashtag #deviouslicks or #diabolicallicks, and with captions similar to “first day of school copped a devious lick.” So if you’re on TikTok and you wonder what they mean when they say something like “got this absolute devious lick,” it’s TikTok lingo for stealing something.  

Of course, school administrators aren’t happy at all about students stealing, so they’ve taken action through suspensions, warnings and even criminal charges. Even bathroom breaks in school have been heavily restricted, with administrators choosing to lock the bathrooms for most of the school day. Parents have also been advised to be aware of social media trends to help prevent their kids from being influenced by potentially harmful trends like “devious licks” in the future. 

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Even TikTok has acknowledged that the trend may have promoted something bad and moved to take down the “devious licks” videos on the platform, but the trend has already gone viral, and people have shared some of the videos on other platforms like Twitter. Now, when you look up “devious licks” on the app’s search bar, only a message from TikTok pops up: “No results found. This phrase may be associated with behavior or content that violates our guidelines. Promoting a safe and positive experience is TikTok’s top priority. For more information, we invite you to review our Community Guidelines.”

As for why the students are going through all the trouble of stealing and vandalizing for a trend, it’s possible that it’s because of the pandemic. For so long, the students have been cooped up in their homes, and now they might just be looking for a way to rebel, according to Amanda Brennan, senior director of trends for digital marketing agency XX Artists. For school counselor Phyllis Fagell, she thinks that it’s due to peer pressure, as tweens and teens are both vulnerable to it, plus they’re at a stage in their lives wherein they’re trying to see where they fit into society. 

However, given the rebellious streak in teens that contributed to the students going along with the trend, it might be difficult to stop the trend. According to Brennan and Mekanism chief social officer Brendan Gahan, it could be a case of the Streisand effect, meaning that the more authorities try to stop the students from stealing, the more they actually encourage them to do so. It’s like the idea that when you’re told not to do something, the more you feel like you want to do it. 

In the Philippines we’re still sticking with online education, but there will be a pilot run of face-to-face classes in certain schools starting on November 15. TikTok’s become really popular in the country, so schools might have to watch out in case students decide to hop onto the “devious licks” trend.

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