9 Investigates: How a TikTok trend could hurt teenage girls, lead to serious consequences

A new TikTok challenge is backfiring on young people, and it’s something parents need to be aware of.

The “Red Silhouette Challenge” was reportedly created to help promote body positivity. But the positive has turned negative now that hackers have found a way to expose participants without their knowledge.

The idea is to stand in front of the camera fully clothed, then when the music changes, the user appears in less clothing or none at all, but only as a silhouette obscured by a red filter.

According to technology expert A.G. Howard, that red filter is not secure, however.

Hundreds of thousands of TikTok users have done it, including 23-year-old Nadia Cole.

“There are people out there that just do very bad things,” she said.

Licensed Pediatric and Family Psychologist Mekel Harris said a large portion of the people participating in the challenge are young girls, and it’s putting them at risk.

“That can certainly create an environment where kids’ faces are being put out in the public domain, and their bodies are being shown in ways they didn’t anticipate,” she said.

Howard said hackers can easily remove the red filter and then sharpen the image to show more details.

Channel 9 found dozens of online videos that explain how to remove the filter. One of the videos had 250,000 views.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic, and teenagers are feeling a lot of social isolation like we all are,” Harris said. “So, in a lot of ways, these social media apps are offering space to help them feel connected to their peers,” she added.

Harris thinks some young people probably don’t consider what can go wrong with social media challenges.

Cole agreed. “If you don’t want someone to do such a terrible thing and expose you in such a way, make sure that you’re prepared, and you’re covered,” she said. “You just have to consider that when you put things on the internet.”