Fact Check Friday: TikTok rumors spark anxiety

Posted at 8:56 AM, Apr 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-23 08:59:03-04

Viral messages about the possibility of rampant attacks happening on Saturday have racked up millions of views on TikTok.

In an article posted April 19, a TikTok spokesperson told Newsweek they didn't find any video promoting the attacks, but there are hundreds of videos and posts telling people to be cautious of people committing sex crimes on Saturday, April 24. They've racked up 93.2 million views as of Thursday morning.

Cincinnati police said they didn't want to bring any extra attention to the rumors and said there’s no indication of any credibility or a known threat to the public.

Dr. Erica Brikley, a psychologist at the UC College of Medicine, said even the looming fear of attacks can be harmful.

“It elicits fear. And for so many of us, when we have a strong fear response, then that creates stress, sometimes panic,” Brikley said.

Brikley said our natural reaction is to reach out socially when panic sets in. She said parents can help by starting the conversation with their kids about sexual assault.

“We know that one in six women will be the victim of sexual assault or attempted rape in their lifetime, about one in 33 men, and the rates are higher for those in the LGBTQ community,” she said. “Ideally, you have a conversation, you make sure to address it as parents, with your kids or your college students, ask them if they've seen it. And then be very open to a range of emotions and responses, validating those being non judgmental as they come up. And then again, asking your kids specifically as a parent, what can I do to best support you?

Brikley also suggests reaching out to a mental health professional for kids who need more help.