Auto-Theft Inspired by Popular TikTok Challenge


Brian Luppy/Villanovan Photography

An increase in car thefts and teenage deaths are all tied to a popular TikTok challenge.

Regan McEnroe, Staff Writer

This past week, seventeen states urged the U.S. government to place a recall on millions of Kia and Hyundai vehicles that are at risk of being stolen, thanks to a newly viral TikTok challenge. 

Videos populating TikTok pages have shown viewers how to start Kia and Hyundai model cars using only a screwdriver and a USB cable. In Los Angeles alone, car theft of these models has increased by nearly 85% and accounts for as much as 20% of all car thefts in the city.  

Within the last 10 years, both Kia and Hyundai have released cars that do not have an engine immobilizer. This important feature prevents a car from being started without a key. Without this immobilizer, Kia and Hyundai vehicles have become subject to the threat of theft. 

Beyond the tragedy of a stolen car, this increase in theft has led to even worse consequences. Car crash incidents that led to many teenage deaths have also been linked to this viral challenge, seeming to show that TikTok, perhaps made with the intention of being a fun social media source, has led to danger, fear and even death. 

Since this increase in thefts, both Kia and Hyundai have announced they are providing software updates to their vehicles, ensuring that a key is required to be in the ignition in order to turn the car on. 

Additionally, the cars’ theft alarm software is being updated to increase the length of an alarm from 30 seconds to one minute. While the companies are scrambling to improve the situation, much harm has already been done.  

What is most interesting is that Kia and Hyundai seem to have quickly risen to accept blame, while TikTok and those participating in the challenge have not. 

The federal government ordered a recall on all cars of these models, however, did nothing to federally mandate any restrictions on TikTok of these viral videos that are continuing to circulate. 

This challenge is specifically targeting teenagers, the main demographic of the app, and these teens are posting videos of themselves stealing and driving the cars using the hashtag “Kia Boys.”  

These teenagers are taking the cars for joyrides or even worse, to commit other crimes. And yet, Kia and Hyundai still seem to be taking the majority of the blame in this situation. If this “crisis” is going to teach us anything, it should be that, once again, TikTok is the real danger here. 

Though TikTok is a platform that should be used to spread videos about joyful things like dancing, lifestyle trends and vacations, it has often been used to spread hatred and danger.  

Not long ago, a widespread challenge on the app encouraged viewers to overdose on Benadryl in an effort to experience hallucinations. Another challenge encouraged children to hold their breath until they fell unconscious due to a lack of oxygen, which also led to multiple deaths. 

Now the app is releasing videos encouraging kids and teenagers to steal cars. As fun and entertaining as TikTok can be, it has also proven to be a problem. 

This issue has become so severe that State Farm and Progressive insurance companies have even stopped insuring Kia and Hyundai models that are vulnerable to being stolen.  

This is only perpetuating financial and legal problems for victims of these auto-thefts. While Kia and Hyundai seek to right these wrongs, much irreversible damage has already been done. 

It is unclear how many more dangerous and harmful trends will be released on this app until it becomes abundantly clear that TikTok has grown to be a real societal danger. 

It is only a matter of time before worse challenges are released, compelling viewers to commit unthinkable crimes. It is important to get ahead of this while it is still possible. 

TikTok needs restrictions and, in the end, may ultimately need to disappear.