If you do a quick scan of the news this morning you may notice the following story pop up.
The latest TikTok challenge this week, called “Devious Lick,” was making the rounds. The challenge began when a student posted a video of himself stealing a bottle of hand sanitizer. As the challenge made its rounds, posters began escalating the challenges and schools all over the country noticed an uptick in serious bathroom vandalism, theft, and other property damage.
As adults, it’s easy to be annoyed with such a mass lapse in judgement. As educators? This is the perfect real-world opportunity for powerful, practical critical thinking instruction.
Root Cause Analysis
This is not the first time a dangerous or illegal online challenge has made the news. But why do teens participate in dangerous or illegal activities online? Ask your class!
Have students conduct a root cause analysis.
- STEP ONE: Pose the big question to your class. Why do teens participate in dangerous or illegal activities online?
- STEP TWO: Give students one minute to write down every possible answer to this question. After one minute has elapsed, allow students to share all their ideas. Encourage other students to record responses they liked but did not consider. We’re better when we put our heads together.
- STEP THREE: Ask students to turn their responses from the first round into “why” questions. For example, if a student said, “videos that have dangerous or illegal challenges receive more likes,” they would re-write, “why do videos that have dangerous or illegal challenges receive more likes?
- STEP FOUR: Ask students to answer their “why” questions.
- STEP FIVE: Discuss the root causes of the problem. What root causes would be easy to address? What root causes would be difficult to address? Why? Which root cause is the main root cause?
It’s impossible to effectively solve a complicated problem without really understanding why the problem exists. Use this viral story as an opportunity to help your students learn how to tackle complex problems.
Analysis from Multiple Perspectives
In the second exercise, consider a scenario where a school’s bathroom was destroyed in an online challenge. How would different people impacted by this act of vandalism feel? For example:
- Random online viewer: Do you think the video will stand out from other content available to the viewer? How long do you think the viewer will think about the video?
- A student who slips on the floor: How would the student physically feel after a fall? How would that impact the student’s emotions? What if the student who fell was a student athlete and had to miss a game? How would that impact their feelings? What if the student who fell was medically fragile? What if they easily bruise or their bones are brittle?
- A principal: What additional issues does this create for an administrator? Do you think parents would be angry at the principal if they were forced to close restrooms? How many angry emails or calls might the administrator receive? How would you feel if you had to make a phone call to the parents of the student who destroyed the bathroom?
- An attorney: What is a lawyer going to say about someone who records themself committing a crime AND posting it publicly on the internet? If you were hired to defend this student, what would be your best argument? Why?
Students can apply this critical thinking strategy on their own in just a moment of reflection, but we need to equip them with the skills and dispositions that will allow them to realize that they need to press pause and reflect.
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