Do you remember the guy or girl in high school who always took things just a little too far? If there was a snowball fight, he was the one launching rockets that sent someone to the hospital. If a harmless prank was underway, he was the one who managed to elevate it to criminal charges.
While technology has certainly improved our world in amazing ways, it has yet to offer an app that curbs human stupidity. There are still showoffs, daredevils, and jokesters that go too far—only now they have smart phones, which creates a whole new threat level for others.
A quick search of YouTube, Instagram/Vine, or Google with the hashtag #challenge or #challengegonewrong and you will soon find teens (and adults) filming dangerous games that sometimes go terribly wrong. (Just don’t click too many videos or you’ll quickly be overwhelmed with explicit language and varying amounts of blood).
Most recently the Fire Challenge (#FireChallenge) has people dousing themselves with flammable liquid such as nail polish remover, lighting themselves on fire, and trying to put out the flames before it burns the skin. This game has resulted in severe burns, several deaths, and the arrest of a parent for helping film her son’s Fire Challenge.
Other dangerous challenges that have made the digital rounds include:
Cinnamon Challenge: swallowing a spoonful of ground cinnamon in less than a minute without water. Danger: Gagging, vomiting, lung scarring, emphysema, lung collapse.
Big Knife Challenge (aka Five Finger Fillet): Quickly stabbing a big knife between your fingers while one hand is open on the table. Sing more quickly each time without stabbing yourself. Danger: Severe injury, accidental amputation.
Salt and Ice Challenge: Pouring salt on your skin, placing an ice cube on top, and holding it there for as long as possible. Danger: Salt on ice drops its temperature far below freezing, which can cause third-degree burns and amputation.
Condom Challenge: Inserting a condom into a nostril, snorting it back into your throat, and pulling it out of your mouth. Danger: Choking, death.
Neknomination Challenge (neck + nominate): Consuming large amounts of alcohol in outlandish ways, then challenging friends to do the same. Danger: At least five people have died from alcohol poisoning while playing this game online.
The Cold Water Challenge: Jumping into an icy lake, swimming back to shore, and nominating a friend to do the same. Danger: Drowning and hypothermia. Earlier this year a 16-year-old in Minnesota died after swimming out into a lake alone to complete the challenge.
Family Talking Points:
• Don’t assume your child won’t try it. Peer pressure often masquerades as fun. These challenges propagate from the quest to one-up and compete—emotions that can instantly commandeer the logic of even the most sensible teen in seconds.
• Prompt critical thinking. When you talk about these online games, simply ask your child “what do you think could happen if you do this?” You might be surprised if they really can’t come up with anything. Be sure they can verbalize the risks.
• Set clear boundaries. Make sure you communicate what is and isn’t okay. Remember, your teen has an underdeveloped frontal lobe (the part of the brain that manages impulse control); therefore, his or her definition of “what’s okay” and your definition may not always line up.
• State (and restate) the obvious. It may be clear to you that snorting a condom up your nose or lighting yourself on fire is a bad idea but make no assumptions when it comes to your child’s safety.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @SafeEyes.