Distress hand signals learned on TikTok: Will this trend stick around? How does it impact law enforcement?

Connecticut Families

(WTNH) – A recent kidnapping case raised awareness of hand motions signaling distress, circulated and learned on TikTok.

“When I heard that, I really thought it spoke to the power of TikTok,” says Darien’s Shannon Doherty – a mom who posts popular lifestyle hacks on the social media giant. She believes the distress signals, could be game-changers.

“I think it’s amazing. One of the reasons I love TikTok so much is for the educational side and the way the community really comes together to learn things,” she says.

“It was started by a Canadian woman’s organization during the pandemic,” explains Susan Campbell of the University of New Haven.

The simple hand motions signal “I need help”, “violence at home” or “domestic violence”. Members of local academia are intrigued.

“I took a straw poll in my class of college students and asked them if they were aware of the hand signals and if they were aware of this trend on TikTok and almost universally they were,” says Hilary Fussell Sisco of Quinnipiac University. But, she also wonders how wide the audience really is and if this trend will stick around.

“It may not be universal or applicable everywhere and two months from now, it might be something people don’t talk about again and those are the peaks and valleys of social media,” she says.

And, could this trend interfere with law enforcement?

“We want parents to talk to their children and let them know that if you need help, find a way,” says Trooper First Class Christine Jeltema of the Connecticut State Police who is hesitant to give an opinion now.

She believes it’s always best to stick with the basics of safety: “It’s see something, say something. Call. We’re the ones that can go out there and determine whether or not someone truly needs help. That’s our job.”

Everyone agrees, this provides a new way to look at social media.

“This is one instance where social media did a good thing,” says Campbell.

And, if you’re skeptical, just look up hashtags #DistressSignal, #DoesThisActuallyWork, and #LearnWithTikTok to see the attention these signals are getting, in our ever-changing online world.

“I think it’s here for a long time and this is just an example of how strong it is,” says Doherty. “I think it’s an amazing force for good in the community.”

Certainly, questions remain – like, will predators just become a part of this audience?

Head to News 8’s social media pages to share your thoughts on this new trend.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss