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Dunedin schools and the Mental Health Foundation are sending out warnings after a video surfaced on social media platform TikTok showing a violent suicide.
St Clair School was one of several schools to email parents and warn them of the graphic content on social media yesterday.
Principal Jen Rodgers said she was "mortified" to hear about the video clip and had quickly sent a note out to parents advising them to keep pupils off social media.
"It’s horrifying. I thought it was important families were aware, so they could be particularly vigilant with their children’s social media."
She was recommending parents heavily supervised their children’s social media interactions or did not allow them on social media for the time being.
"If kids see this they’ll never unsee it ... We have to give them [social media platforms] a chance to get it down, get it away, get it hidden."
It served as a reminder of why young children should not have social media accounts, she said.
"This is the extreme end of it but kids can be exposed to anything on social media."
St Hilda’s Collegiate School also sent a note warning parents and caregivers.
"Check with your children to determine if they have viewed this clip, they are likely to be extremely distressed.
"We are also receiving reports that trolls are using videos of puppies and kittens to lure kids into seeing the video. It is also being inserted into videos of kittens on TikTok."
A TikTok spokesman said the clips were livestreamed on Facebook and circulated on other platforms, including TikTok.
"Our systems have been automatically detecting and flagging these clips for violating our policies against content that displays, praises, glorifies, or promotes suicide," he said.
"We are banning accounts that repeatedly try to upload clips."
The Mental Health Foundation issued a public advisory yesterday saying viewers of the video may be extremely distressed.
Chief executive Shaun Robinson said not to share the video under any circumstance.
He was concerned young people were becoming increasingly aware of the video; many well-meaning attempts to caution followers not to share the video inadvertently raised awareness of the footage’s existence, and some comment sections shared links to websites where the video could still be found.
"It puts vulnerable people at an extremely high risk of real harm. There is no reason whatsoever to share it."
Young people used social media differently from adults and would almost inevitably encounter material related to mental health, self-harm and suicide, he said.
"We need to ensure young people feel they can safely talk to the adults in their lives about distressing things they have seen or heard without fear of punishment or losing access to social media."
Chief censor David Shanks said parents needed to be aware of the video so they could support their children to be safe and avoid watching it.
"Social media platforms are working to delete this harmful and upsetting video, but some individuals are intentionally uploading it and spreading it," he said.
"Popular videos can appear on people’s homepages without being searched for and with no warning.
"We all have a role to play to not amplify and spread this harmful video further. Even well-meaning posts expressing sadness give it more traction. Some people are posting the video in the comments of these posts."
A police spokeswoman confirmed police were aware of the content circulating on a popular social media platform.
It appeared to have been content created overseas, she said.
‘‘Police acknowledge the disturbing and distressing nature of the video and urge anyone who comes across the video to not share it.
‘‘If a member of the public comes across other content online that they think should be removed, in the first instance people should report it through the platform for review.’’
Parents were advised to visit the Netsafe website if their child had been exposed to upsetting content.
— Additional reporting The New Zealand Herald
- Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (24/7)
- Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (24/7)
- Youth services: (06) 3555 906
- Youthline: 0800 376 633
- Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (24/7)
- Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm-11pm)
- Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (24/7)
- Helpline: 1737