Florida Police Forces Warn TikTok Users Against Taking Part in the ‘Orbeez Challenge’ - People Could Get Hurt

Toby Hazlewood

It's not illegal, but it's not safe either

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Various police forces across Florida have made public statements recently, advising users of the social media platform TikTok against taking part in its latest dangerous and disruptive trend - the so-called 'Orbeez Challenge'.

Police officials from Pasco County were the latest force to make their announcement on March 17, appealing to the public to avoid taking part in this dangerous challenge. They joined a number of other police forces including those from Volusia County and Ocala who have appealed for common sense in the public.

As representatives from Pasco County Police Department put it:

"While this is not illegal, it's important to participate in this activity responsibly to ensure the safety of everyone in our community."

Orbeez are soft, non-toxic, water-filled gel balls that can be shot with special gel blaster guns available for sale in most department store toy aisles. The challenge invites TikTok users to post videos of Orbeez being shot at unsuspecting passers by.

The obvious danger is that small pellets, even soft, water-filled ones can do harm and injure those who are hit by them. It also seems unwise to point and shoot a gun at a stranger, particularly in Florida where the target may have an actual gun and be provoked to fire back in self-defense?

TikTok in trouble?

While some may argue that technology platforms can't be held responsible for the content that people post, TikTok has been associated with a number of problematic trends in recent months.

September 2021 began with educators having to deal with kids taking part in a series of disruptive 'challenges' set by influencers on the social media app, TikTok. Students were encourage to vandalize bathrooms and even slap their teachers, which saw many teachers being assaulted by pupils and the videos posted online.

Things took a turn for the worse in December, when various videos posted on TikTok threatened violence in schools across the nation on December 17.

Should TikTok take responsibility?

TikTok isn't as big as social networks like Facebook or Instagram, but with 1 billion monthly users it's still enormous. According to a 2021 survey, more than 32% of its user base is aged between 10-19 years. Kids within this age group are clearly susceptible to manipulation and the power of suggestion.

Given the potential danger to the public as a result of pranks going wrong and the impressionable nature of many of TikTok's users, it seems smart that the police try to discourage participants or at least appeal for caution. Whether the warnings make a difference remains to be seen.

What do you think of social media platforms being used to promote dangerous challenges? Do you think they have more of a responsibility to discourage participation, or is it up to the police to govern behavior? Let me know in the comments section below.

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