crying girl
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
January 8, 2024 ·  6 min read

Teen told 8-year-old her family died for a TikTok prank

Teens and young adults on TikTok have been known to do some pretty crazy things. In an age of young people constantly trying to impress each other on the internet, they often push the boundaries – and more often, a little too far. This woman’s daughter helped pull a cruel TikTok prank on her friend’s 8-year-old sister. Now she’s wondering if her punishment was too harsh. She turned to the Reddit forum Am I The Asshole (AITA) for advice. (1)

“Is My Punishment Too Harsh For My Daughter’s TikTok Prank?

The original poster (OP) is disgusted by the absolutely cruel TikTok prank her 15-year-old daughter helped her friend pull on her friend’s little sister. For the prank, OP’s daughter hid in the closet filming while her friend called her eight-year-old sister into the room. (1)

The friend proceeded to fake-cry, telling her sister she’d just received word that both of their parents died in a tragic car accident. Once they had captured her reaction on camera, they then revealed the truth, also on-film. (1)

“Needless to say the friend’s sister did not take it well even after being told of the truth and the parents contacted me,” OP wrote. “I was absolutely disgusted especially considering the intention was to humiliate her on TikTok.” (1)

As punishment, OP grounded her daughter for one month and took away her phone. She gave her a replacement phone that could only make calls, text, and take pictures. (1)

One month later as her grounding came to a close, the daughter asked when she would get her phone back. (1)

“I told her “When you can afford to buy your own.” Since her phone was what she used for it, I don’t see any reason why she should be allowed to one able to access such apps.” (1)

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Dad’s Opinion

Devastated, the daughter complained to her father. Though he agreed with OP that she should not yet be given back her phone, he thought maybe waiting until she could afford her own was too harsh. He suggested until the end of the school year. (1)

“I told my daughter I’d consider it based on her behavior, but she’s still banned from TikTok regardless,” she wrote. (1)

This news caused her daughter to throw another temper tantrum, and she is now giving OP the silent treatment. She understands that social media is an unfortunately important aspect of teenager’s lives now. Still, she is so disgusted at how she chose to use TikTok that she doesn’t think she deserves the “right” to be on the app any longer. (1)

“am I being too harsh or unreasonable? I get how important such phones and apps are now to teens’ social lives, but I really can’t let something like that go unaddressed.” she asked Reddit. (1)

Reddit’s Opinion

The votes are in, and Reddit has decided that, no, OP is not the asshole for her reaction to what her daughter did. Everyone largely agreed that the TikTok prank was horrendously cruel, especially played on a child.

Many suggested that her daughter goes to therapy to understand better how senselessly mean her practical joke was. Others, however, said that her daughter didn’t need therapy, but a long discussion with mom and dad is in order.

“Agree on the judgment, but therapy shouldn’t really be threatened as a punishment or a corrective treatment this way. It’s not what it’s for, and it’s a silver bullet,” wrote one commenter. “The teenage kid did some stupid shit with her friend, and she lost her phone and TikTok access for it. The punishment fits the crime.” (1)

Another commenter agreed that therapy was unnecessary.

“Why does she need therapy, though? Why can’t mom have that conversation with her daughter? Are we really paying other people to parent our kids now?” they wrote. (1)

A few suggested that therapy should only be considered if bullying becomes a larger problem. For now, just having a good old-fashioned conversation about why what she did was so terrible is needed. (1)

TikTok Prank Punishment Advice

Many offered some advice in terms of how she was going about the punishment.

“I agree with everything said above, however, your manner of punishing her leaves MUCH to be desired. You don’t announce a punishment, and then when that’s over, announce another one, and when that doesn’t go down well, announce yet another one. You only revise a punishment to lessen it. This constant goalpost moving will make her feel like she’ll never be out from under this, so why bother trying?” explained one user. “Instead, sit her down and talk this out fully. Therapy too. Then have her set her own punishment by giving her a goal (prove to you she understands what she did wrong and will never do such a thing again) and asking her to set benchmarks towards that goal and rewards (privileges given back) when she meets those benchmarks. B/c what you’re doing now is counterproductive.” (1)

Teen Brains Wired Differently?

Another agreed, reminding OP that certain parts of a teenager’s brain just simply aren’t there yet. Her daughter likely isn’t a monster, she is just still learning empathy.

“She thought it would be funny because the area of the brain responsible for empathy stops developing around puberty and starts developing again around the end of puberty. Which is why teenagers are kind of universally psychopathic little bastards. Don’t disagree with therapy, but that’s why she thought it would be funny.” (1)

This is apparently true. There is an imbalance in teenagers’ brains between the more mature subcortical areas of the brain and the less-mature prefrontal areas. This is why teens tend to express riskier, more difficult behaviors. (2) Regardless, this doesn’t give teens a free path to act maliciously for the sake of a joke.

“She traumatized an 8-year-old. That child may need therapy. You are a good parent by helping her understand the severity of what she did.” said one commenter, to which another responded:

“‘understanding the severity’ isn’t the same is teaching her how to do better. It doesn’t sound like the punishment is actually helping her learn what she did wrong & how to not do it again.” (1)

TikTok Is Toxic

Other commenters said that they think she is right to keep her daughter off TikTok.

“tik tok is toxic as hell,” wrote one person. “Beyond that, it often encourages toxic behavior in kids and teens. There was another post recently about someone’s younger sister putting butter on a bearded lizard for a video and it could have seriously hurt the animal. Keep her off of it before she gets worse with her “pranks”.” (1)

At the end of it, many agreed that she should get her phone back, but that not being allowed on TikTok wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most importantly, however, is the consensus that OP needed to have a long conversation with her daughter about bullying, cruelty, and empathy. From there, if the daughter expresses remorse because of what she did, then she can have her phone back (TikTok enabled up to OP). If not, then she clearly still hasn’t learned her lesson. (1)

After reading through everyone’s advice, OP thanked everyone and agreed that she needed to have a serious discussion with her daughter. From there, depending on how well her daughter understands the cruelty of her actions, the end of the punishment can be determined. (1)

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  1. Reddit
  2. Brain Development During Adolescence.” NCBI. Kerstin Konrad, et al. June 2013.