There’s no excuse for cyberbullying even when it’s dressed up as a silly prank.
A new trend on TikTok dubbed the #FaceTimePrank sees parents sharing videos of their children’s reactions when shown photos of people who look different to them, INSIDER reported.
The prank is meant to prompt a comical response from the kids but it’s been slammed for being insensitive and perpetuating a fear of people with unusual looks.
And it’s just not funny! That’s the powerful message from Lizzie Velasquez, who was once branded the “world’s ugliest woman” because of her rare congenital diseases. She has been vocal about the viral videos, DailyMail reported.
Making reference to a video in which a picture of her was used by a mom to scare her child, the 31-year-old from the US makes a heartfelt plea to the TikTok community. She encourages parents to teach their children kindness especially towards people deemed different because of their physical features or disabilities.
“This trend where you are pretending to FaceTime someone who is disabled or is a baby or there’s some crazy mugshot and you’re showing it to someone to get their reaction and say, "Oh hey, talk to this person," just to get a quick laugh — this is not a joke,” she says in the video.
Lizzie was born with Marfanoid–progeroid–lipodystrophy syndrome, a medical condition that prevents her from gaining weight and body fat.
She pleads with TikTokkers to be better examples to children.
“If you’re an adult who has a young human in your life, please do not teach them that being scared of someone who doesn't look like them is okay,” she says.
“Please. Everything that these kids need to know about having empathy and being kind to one another starts at home. This is not okay. This is a trend that needs to stop because we are human and we have feelings.”
Lizzie’s video has since been retweeted more than 200 000 times and liked by more than half a million Twitter users. Many users empathised with Lizzie and thanked her for sharing such an important message.
More on TikTok and cyberbullying
TikTok is a short-video form social media platform is wildly popular, boasting an incredible 800 million active users worldwide.
The social media app which is used by 41% of teens and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 is aimed at sparking creativity. However users have complained about being bullied on the platform.
TikTok came under fire in 2019 for trying to filter out some users in an effort to promote aspirational content, The Guardian reported. Moderators were told to exclude content for the algorithm-powered “For You” feed, where most users enter the app.
“chubby … obese or too thin” or who have “ugly facial looks or facial deformities, according to documents published by The Intercept. The reasoning was that, “if the character’s appearance is not good, the video will be much less attractive, not worthing [sic] to be recommended to new users.”
The move received much criticism and was described as censorship.
Presently, TikTok has various steps one can take on its platform to prevent online bullying.
These options include making one's account private, deleting comments and reporting bullying on behalf of someone else to TikTok.