Now that school is back in session, so is mischief and danger. Kids are engaging in challenges they see online that can cause injury and even death.
Why do they do it? Truth be told, many of us probably did ridiculous things on a dare. But now, there is more at stake. Specifically, that precious 15 minutes of fame that can be splashed all over social media sights. Too bad many of the participants can't see the results from a hospital bed or a morgue.
So is it boredom? The need for the ultimate rush? Peer pressure? Lack of emotional maturity? Super competitiveness? All of the above?
No matter the cause, a solution needs to be found. Now.
Here are some challenges that are popular at the moment from www.schoolmum.net.
The Cinnamon Challenge – This involves putting a spoonful of pure cinnamon powder in your mouth and swallowing it without any water. While this might seem like a fairly innocuous food challenge, as well as being spicy, cinnamon is extremely dry, coating the mouth and can cause difficulty breathing. It can even be inhaled into the lungs or cause choking.
The Ghost Pepper/Chili Challenge – Another food challenge, this one involves eating the spiciest chili you can get your hands on. Obviously this can lead to a lot of pain and discomfort.
The Backpack Challenge – This is just bizarre. You have to run between two rows of people who try to hit you in the head by throwing backpacks at you. Sounds fun doesn’t it? Apparently it’s led to quite a few head injuries.
The Kylie Lip Challenge – Inspired by Kylie Jenner’s pouty lips, this challenge involves putting a shot glass onto your mouth and sucking in as hard as you can. The aim is to make a vacuum causing your lips swell. Apart from the obvious bruising and damage to blood vessels, if this is done with glass rather than plastic, there’s a good chance of it shattering under the pressure and causing some nasty cuts.
The Fire Challenge – This involves pouring a flammable liquid on yourself, usually on the torso, and setting it alight. The potential ramifications are obvious and people have died from their injuries as a result.
The Choking/Pass Out Challenge –This scary challenge is pretty self-explanatory. It involves trying to make yourself or someone else pass out with the intent of experiencing euphoria due to lack of oxygen to the brain. Sadly but unsurprisingly, this challenge has resulted in many deaths.
The Hot Water Challenge – For this one, participants either have to drink boiling water through a straw or pour boiling water on unsuspecting victims. An eight year old reportedly died after doing this challenge as she suffered severe burns in her mouth and throat. Many others have also sustained serious burns.
The Salt and Ice Challenge – This challenge involves putting salt and ice on your skin or in the palm of your hand. The person who holds out and endures the pain the longest wins. The reaction between the salt and ice means the temperature can get much colder than ice alone and can cause similar injuries to frostbite. People have sustained second and third-degree burns doing this challenge.
The Blue Whale Challenge – Of all the online challenges, this has to be the most disturbing. The game consists of tasks assigned over a 50-day period by “administrators”. Tasks vary but involve things like getting up at 4am to watch a horror movie, performing dangerous acts like standing on the roof of building or carving phrases into an arm or leg. Sickeningly, the final task is suicide. An alarming number of deaths around the world have been attributed to The Blue Whale Challenge with many more failed suicides and cases of self-harm have been reported.
The Eraser Challenge - The challenge is to rub an eraser on the skin for as long as they can stand it. The result? A burn-like injury to the skin. The injury is painful and if the skin is open it can get infected and leave a scar. If the wound is very deep, an infection can spread below the skin and make the child very sick.
The Deodorant Challenge - The challenge actually involves using spray deodorant. The spray has a cooling effect and the goal of the challenge is to see how long one can hold it near the skin. It can be quite painful and will definitely leave marks on the skin. Because the skin cools quickly, it causes frostbite, which at first appears white. This effect is similar to the salt-ice challenge. Unfortunately, there is damage to the skin following the initial frostbite and the damage can be permanent.
The Tide Pod Challenge - The challenge is to ingest Tide Pods, make a video and post it online. Obviously, serious illness can result that ranges from diarrhea and vomiting to breathing problems.
Schools can try to help, but most of these challenges take place outside the school day/campus.
Here are some suggestions for parents from Common Sense Media:
Talk about it. Though we can't always be with our tweens and teens to prevent dangerous behavior, our words really can stay with them. Say, "If you ever want to do an internet challenge, check with me first."
Get them to think. Help your kid think through the challenges and whether they're safe or have potential risks. Say, "Walk through each step and figure out where things could go wrong."
Acknowledge peer pressure. Today's kids think of internet personalities as their peers, so seeing kids on YouTube doing a challenge could influence your kid. Say, "Why do you want to do this? Is this a video of yourself that you really want out in the world?"
Stay (somewhat) up to date. Ask your kid about what's happening in their lives when they're not distracted -- even when it seems like they don't want you to. Sometimes kids are more willing to talk about what's going on with other kids than with themselves, so pose questions about friends, school, and trends. Once the conversation is open, you can get a sense of what your kid thinks about the latest craze -- and if they're safe. Keep an open mind and intervene if you're concerned. Say, "Would you consider doing a viral stunt if someone asked you? Which ones would you do and not do?"
Model responsible online habits. Some parents are the ones recording their kids taking these challenges, so make sure your involvement sends the message you intend. Today it might be harmless, but tomorrow it might be more dangerous. Help your kids make the distinction so they can stay safe. Say, "Let's do a funny challenge together, but we'll only film it if you want to, and we'll only share it with family."
Being a parent has never been more of a challenge (pun intended). Our moms and dads worried we might get into some harmless trouble, but they usually didn't have to wonder if we were going to be alive by the end of the day.
It's happening. We can't keep it off the Internet. So all we can do is stay informed and vigilant. Talk to other parents. Google search "teen social media challenges" every so often. And keep the lines of communication open with your children.