We’ve all come across viral internet challenges one way or another. From the conversations we overhear while in line at Trader Joe’s to our Facebook or Instagram news feed. Viral internet challenges have increasingly become more mainstream. While some are harmless, others have indeed led to overwhelming tragedy. More and more children and teens are falling victim to these challenges for “likes” and more “followers” in hopes to expand their social network. What starts as one friend doing whatever is trendy at the time, leads to more friends being nominated to complete the challenge. What can we do as parents and caregivers to put an end to these challenges? First and foremost, we need to be armed with knowledge about the most common and most potentially harmful challenges out there.
Ice Bucket Challenge
Adults are just as susceptible to viral internet challenges. Remember the ice bucket challenge? I’m still freezing! This was a positive sensation that took the internet by storm to raise awareness of ALS and fund research to find a cure. While this challenge was a charity driven effort, many others that have followed and permeate social media and can be risky, in some cases leading to hospitalization and even death in tweens and teens.
Kyle Jenner Lip Challenge
One of the popular challenges that can be physically disfiguring is the Kyle Jenner lip challenge. The challenge calls for an individual to place a shot glass on their mouth, suck in and make their lips temporarily swell. Not only is this physically painful it can lead to bruising and permanent lip injury. The danger doesn’t end there! The potential of the shot glass to shattering is real which can lead to facial lacerations. Even if none of these horrible things happens, this challenge is worrisome because it signals possible low self esteem and builds on that negative self-image.
Here’s an even more dangerous challenge: The Cinnamon challenge. The object of the challenge is to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in under 60 seconds without drinking anything and then upload the video to the internet. Many kids have been harmed while trying this challenge as cinnamon dries the mouth and throat resulting in coughing, gagging, and vomiting. There have also been incidences of breathing difficulties, and pneumonia as the cinnamon gets aspirated into the lungs.
Tide Pod Challenge
The object of the challenge is to eat Tide Pods, small packets filled with laundry detergent. The chemicals in the packet although aromatic, are toxic. In January of 2018, there were many reports of poisonings from this challenge and the challenge was removed from You Tube to prevent the spread of this harmful challenge.
The Condom Challenge.
The object of this challenge is to insert a latex condom into the nostril and snort it into the nasal cavity so it enters the back of the throat and then pull it out through the mouth. As one can imagine, the challenge poses the potential risk of choking. Plus it’s just gross! And do you want your tween around condoms before they ‘should’ be?
The Kiki Challenge.
This is one of the newest viral internet challenges. The object of this challenge is to get out of a moving car and perform dance moves to singer Drake’s song, “In My Feelings”. In July, an 18 year old girl in Iowa ended up in critical condition in the ICU after the challenge led to her tripping out of her car, fracturing her skull leading to irreversible brain damage. She is now in rehab re-learning how to walk.
Why do kids do these wacky things?
Why would teens want to harm themselves in these ways? They actually don’t! They just want to try something different and a little edgy and risky and cool and silly but can’t still imagine (magically) that nothing bad will happen to them. Talking ‘sense’ into them is tricky as a result since they don’t think they will get hurt even if others have.
Attempting the challenges is rooted in something else characteristic of the adolescent years—Impulsivity. Impulsivity and the difficulty in standing up to peer pressure have lead adolescents to make many poor choices. In the past, we could at least keep our kids safe from the influence of peer pressure at home. However, with the permeation of the internet and social media into the lives of our kids, they are indeed influenced by other kids more than ever before. This influence spreads beyond school grounds to daily life at home.
As parents WEneed to be the ones cultivating the spirit of our children. While we can’t be with them 24 hours a day to stop them from making poor choices, we can gage their potential to enact harmful behaviors and prevent them from falling prey to peer pressure. Here are some tips to help do this:
- Talk openly about what you hear on the news about internet challenges and other fads that are harmful or have ended in tragedy. Most children only hear or see the positive outcomes of these challenges, and when made aware of how the act can go wrong, renounce the challenge themselves.
- Listen to your kids concerns so they don’t need to do wacky things to get your attention. Ask your kids about what challenges they have in their daily social lives. Listen to their needs and give importance to their concern about their image amongst their peers.
- Monitor social media. Keep computers and electronics that can access social media in a central location in the house, so your child’s use can be monitored.
- Limit screen time. Keep cell phones and other electronics away during family time or at bed time to promote less screen time at home.
- Give kids other ‘edgy’ things to do that are predictably safe like going to amusement parks, haunted houses, and the like.
- Get kids out of their comfort zone by challenging them with a task that makes them feel older and ‘cooler’ than their peers in middle school like going a longer distance from home on their bike or foot (like going to town to meet friends), running errands for you at the store on their own, or running an event for charity that involves a ‘challenge’ with you taking a back seat.
Viral internet challenges will continue to circulate, but we can safeguard our children against them by arming them with knowledge of the potential dangers of such acts and encouraging opportunities to take real life challenges. It is our duty to cultivate a spirit of openness in which we don’t judge them but listen to them in order to better understand them and help them make the right choices!