What’s trending on TikTok “Kia Boyz”?

Photo-Illustration: from The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

Picture this: It’s a gorgeous Tuesday morning in Los Angeles. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and you’re ready for another day at the office. Grab your laptop, your home-cooked lunch (yes, watch your meal planning!) and, of course, your car keys. But gasp! When you get out, you see nothing but an empty parking space where you are thought you parked your car the night before. Bewildered, you pace up and down the block, clicking your alarm key, hoping to hear the familiar “beep beep” somewhere in the distance. But after a few blog loops and clicking more and more frantically to no avail, you think to yourself: Did someone steal my car?

A few weeks ago, one of my roommates in LA’s Highland Park neighborhood found herself in this unfortunate situation. Confused, we looked at the cars lined up on our block. My Toyota Prius was parked exactly as I had left it the night before, and my other roommate’s bright red Volkswagen was sitting pretty, taking in the morning light. Among them, however, a vacant parking space: his Kia Optima MIA.

Sigh. City living, I thought: The price we pay to live and gentrify in the center of everything! As a born-and-raised New Yorker currently navigating the hellscape that is first-time car ownership, my understanding of the frequency of car theft was limited. But this heist struck me as a little odd even from the start: the ten-year-old Kia hardly seemed like the car to look for on a block that generally has a Tesla, a Lexus, and a few Toyotas with notoriously easy use. – nab catalytic converters. Why the Kia?

Well, the answer turns out to be quite simple: TikTok.

Thanks to apparently flawed product design on the part of car companies, stealing Kia (and Hyundai!) cars is trending on the app, with an audio signature, a since-removed hashtag. , and a group of kids from around the country who call themselves the “Kia Boyz” have figured out how to break into any 2011 and newer Kia (or 2015 and newer Hyundai) with nothing more than a screwdriver and a USB cable. And they go for walks (donuting on manicured lawns and zig-zagging on freeways at top speed), filming it and putting it on the Internet!

Not who – what. The “Kia Boyz” trend, which picked up (sorry) earlier this year, started in Milwaukee in 2021 and quickly began spreading across the Midwest. The trend has now led to an increase in car theft across the country thanks to countless videos on TikTok and YouTube.

And like any good TikTok trend, the barrier to entry for this “challenge” is minimal. According to many, lots of videos I’ve seen, it looks like anyone with absolutely zero hot wiring experience could get out of Kia style in less than a minute. According to these tutorials, which can be found with a simple Google search for “Kia Boyz”, all you need to do is use a trusty screwdriver to break the [redacted]crack a [redacted], and grab a USB cable, using the plug end to turn on the ignition. (Like I said, it’s compatible with Google.) Voilà! You’ve just pulled off your first grand theft auto. So remarkably simple that even I, who learned about the existence of gas pump trigger locks like yesterday, could do it.

As long as TikTokers don’t encounter law enforcement while feeling the wind in their hair while tearing down an empty freeway at 1 a.m., these kids generally leave their cars wherever they want after they’re done. Or completely add the innocent Kia into a DIY version of Stadium Super Trucks.

Yes. Like, very young children. An 11-year-old boy in Ohio was even caught stealing two cars in one week. According to most reports, the trend has gained traction mostly with children between the ages of 11 and 17, which means that most of the Kia Boy content creators do not have a license to drive. So not only do you have to have night terrors about your beautiful Kia Soul going off the rails, but you can also wake up in a panic because pre-teens are turning our great country’s freeway system into a bumper car track sponsored by Kia/Hyundai with real people. obstacles

Absolutely not! Innocent drivers, pedestrians, and the Kia Boyz themselves have been killed across the country both while driving recklessly and while fleeing the wrath of law enforcement. This is no joke. It is dangerous. And while of course lost lives are far more tragic than lost property, having your car stolen obviously hurts a lot.

According to statements from Kia and Hyundai, all 2022 models have an “immobilizer,” which is considered a fairly standard anti-theft feature according to other automakers. They have also encouraged car owners to contact their customer service centers if they have questions or concerns about their vehicle’s anti-theft features. Meanwhile, TikTok has released a statement saying that this behavior “categorically violates” its policies and that it will remove any content linked to the trend.

When you consider an obsession with virality and social media trends driven by tech overlords who have created algorithms that serve us perfectly tailored content that not only exposes us, but encourages us (and the kids!) to participate in potentially dangerous challenges and trends. , I dare to ask… what is it next? A fire challenge? A bank robbery trend? I think we adults have created a perfect storm here.

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