Israeli, US parents urged to delete social apps, fearing kids may see hostage clips

Schools call for limiting children’s access to sites like TikTok, Instagram over concerns of graphic content; warning based on WhatsApp message with questionable authenticity

The icon for TikTok. (AP Photo/File)
The icon for TikTok. (AP Photo/File)

A number of Israeli and US Jewish schools are urging parents to limit their children’s access to social media apps such as TikTok and Instagram due to concerns of increasingly graphic content that may be shared from Israel and Gaza.

David Lange, who lives in Israel and runs the Israeli advocacy group Israellycool, posted a screenshot of a message from his daughter’s school on X, the social media platform previously known as Twitter.

The message, written in Hebrew and shared through a WhatsApp group, warned that Hamas may soon begin sharing hostage videos of the Israelis, Americans and others they have captured and urged parents to delete TikTok from their children’s phones.

However, it was not clear where the information about forthcoming hostage videos was coming from, or even whether the widely circulating WhatsApp message was authentic. It cited the “national parents’ leadership,” but there was no evidence that the organization was indeed behind the message.

Regardless, videos showing pleas, violence and even killings are a common tactic by terrorist groups that take hostages. Israel says about 150 people are being held hostage, including women, children and the elderly. Hamas has warned that it would execute hostages in response to strikes in Gaza.

Jewish schools across the United States soon began echoing the warnings. The Frisch School, a Modern Orthodox school in Paramus, New Jersey, sent a similar message to its community, also warning of possible hostage videos.

“Local psychologists have reached out to us and informed us that the Israeli government is urging parents to tell their children to delete Instagram and Tik Tok immediately,” read an email sent to the school Tuesday morning from its principal, Rabbi Eli Ciner. “We strongly advise our students to do the same as soon as possible.”

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The Hannah Senesh Community Day School in Brooklyn also urged parents to consider limiting their children’s access to social media.

“While we understand that we cannot fully prevent our students from viewing images that might appear on their phones, we strongly encourage parents to cultivate honest and open communication with your children about this possibility, monitor their social media usage, and discuss how to avoid opening these videos and what to do should they encounter such media,” read an email Tuesday afternoon from head of school Nicole Nash. “We also ask that parents strongly consider asking their children to delete these apps, at least for the time being.”

Even without hostage videos appearing on TikTok, social media has been flooded with graphic and disturbing images and videos since shortly after Hamas launched a gruesome onslaught against Israeli civilians on Saturday, killing more than 1,200 people and wounding thousands more.

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