Parents and carers in Devon are being urged to keep a close eye on their children’s online activity as a video showing a man taking his life continues to circulate on TikTok.
Schools and social media safety experts say that the highly distressing footage is being shared on the social media platform popular with children.
The original tragic video of bearded American man Ronnie McNutt, in his 30s, was originally livestreamed on Facebook and taken down on Sunday.
However, it’s now widely being shared on TikTok, with online safety consultants warning that it’s often “disguised” as a video of “cute kittens”.
Organisations across Devon who care for children are circulating the warning today.
A letter to parents says: “We are aware that many of our children use TikTok so may inadvertently come across this video. Can we advise that you closely monitor you child’s use of TikTok until this video has been removed.”
Social media safety expert Kirra Pendergast told Safe on Social Media: “A lot of cyber safety experts are warning people, warning schools, warning adults, there has been some distressing content of a gentleman taking his own life that was live streamed on Facebook, and it’s been widely viewed and shared from there across multipole platforms.
“It’s also appearing as a video, disguised to be a video about kittens on TikTok.”
Ms Pendergast, the CEO of Safe on Social, sent an alert to 7,000 schools in Australia overnight advising of the distressing content and urging them them to warn students and parents.
She also warned that the video had been embedded within other videos designed to appeal to children.
She gave this advice for parents who suspect their children have already seen the footage: “If you think they’ve seen the footage and they’re feeling distressed or they’re out of sorts, they’re not talking to you or they’re retreating to the bedroom, all those kinds of things, talk to them about it.
“Make sure that if they don’t want to talk to you about it that they know that they’ve got a whole heap of resources that they can contact to talk confidentially to somebody about this and how it’s made them feel so they know that they can be supported in this space.”
Ms Pendergast also added “it has been moderated on Facebook and it’s starting to disappear. .. [but] we don’t want little kids to see this, so take their devices off them.
“Get them off TikTok for the next couple of days – you can just tell them TikTok is broken for the sake of things in this space because we don’t want them exposed to this extremely graphic content.”
A TikTok representative told website The Verge that “clips of a suicide” started circulating on Sunday night and had first been shared on Facebook.
“Our systems have been automatically detecting and flagging these clips for violating our policies against content that displays, praises, glorifies, or promotes suicide,” the spokesperson said.
“We are banning accounts that repeatedly try to upload clips, and we appreciate our community members who’ve reported content and warned others against watching, engaging, or sharing such videos on any platform out of respect for the person and their family.”
“If anyone in our community is struggling with thoughts of suicide or concerned about someone who is, we encourage them to seek support, and we provide access to hotlines directly from our app and in our Safety Center.”