Social media has become part of our everyday lives, and in recent years apps like TikTok and Youtube have exploded with a new short video format. This new short video media format has given us Viral challenges, which should be fun and innocent and have a positive social message behind them. People and celebrities worldwide have participated in these challenges and shared their videos online. However, not all viral challenges are created equal. Some are dangerous and pose a significant danger to our children.
One of the positive aspects of social media challenges is that they bring people together and create a positive influence on social issues. Viral challenges in recent years include “The Ice Bucket Challenge”, which was created to raise awareness and funds for ALS charity.
The dark side of dangerous Internet and viral challenges
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There is a dark side to social media trends, which we cannot afford to ignore. Some viral challenges are dangerous and might promote harmful behavior that can have severe consequences. As parents, we need to be aware of these challenges. For example, The Tide Pod Challenge, which encouraged participants to eat laundry detergent pods, resulted in hospitalizations and even death. Another example is the Bird Box Challenge, which involved participants wearing a blindfold while performing tasks, which caused serious accidents and injuries. The Blue Whale Challenge and the similar momo challenge is a dangerous online game that originated in Russia and has since spread to several other countries. The game consists of dangerous and self-harming tasks or challenges that participants must complete to win. The final challenge involves the participant taking their own life.
Our children are targeted on social media with what looks like a fun challenge. One day last summer, my own children started playing the “Tortilla Slap Challenge” I had no idea what was going on when this started, but the giggling and fun they were having made a point to me of the power of online challenges. These challenges continue to circulate on social media, and our children are often the ones who are most drawn to them. Kids and teens are often encouraged to take risks regarding a particular challenge, whether they want to fit in with their peers, show off their skills, or have fun.
Some of the recent viral dangerous social media challenges
Dangerous viral social media challenges on TikTok
Tide Pod Challenge
We all heard about this one. In 2018, the Tide Pod Challenge emerged on social media, with young people consuming laundry detergent pods as part of a viral stunt. The challenge resulted in many injuries and poisonings, with over 10,000 cases reported to poison control centers in the United States alone.
Bird Box Challenge
In 2019, the Bird Box Challenge emerged on social media, with young people attempting to perform everyday tasks while blindfolded, inspired by the Netflix horror movie Bird Box. The challenge resulted in various injuries, with some participants driving cars.
The Outlet Challenge involves inserting the prongs of a phone charger into an electrical outlet partially and then touching a penny to the exposed metal. The goal is to spark an electrical current. This extremely dangerous challenge has resulted in several cases of electrical burns and property damage. Fortunately, the short video social platforms banned this in February 2019.
Benadryl Challenge and the Nyquil Challenge
The Benadryl Challenge involves taking excessive amounts of the antihistamine Benadryl to experience hallucinations. According to a study published in Pediatrics, children as young as 10 years old have been hospitalized due to this challenge. In September 2020, a 15-year-old girl from Oklahoma died from taking too much Benadryl while participating in the challenge.
Milk Crate Challenge
In August 2021, the Milk Crate Challenge emerged on social media, especially popular with young teens. The challenge was to attempt climbing a stack of milk crates, without falling, but often results in falls and serious injuries.
Huggy Wuggy Challenges
In a recent article, we covered the hashtag HuggyWuggy Viral Trend; Read about the child dangerous Huggy Wuggy Challenge.
There are so many more online challenges with equally bad statistics. But there is a bright side to the Online Viral challenge trends. Let us also take a look at the positive side.
Social media challenges can encourage creativity, collaboration, and learning. For instance, challenges that involve art, music, or dance can develop artistic skills and foster relationships through communication and teamwork. Furthermore, social media challenges can also raise awareness about social issues and inspire social activism.
Viral Online Challenges
The ALS challenge was one of the most famous that I think most are aware of. Everyone including celebrities and influencers took part in this wonderful charity challenge. With no risks involved, it was a worthy challenge to get children involved in.
One of the most famous challenges was the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, one of the most significant viral challenges on social media. The challenge was started by former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates, who has ALS. The challenge went viral in the summer of 2014, and celebrities, politicians, and ordinary people participated. Participants would dump ice water over their heads and challenge others to do the same or donate to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research. The challenge raised $115 million globally, which funded various research projects.
The #teamtrees challenge was one of the most successful TikTok challenges of 2019. The challenge was created to raise money for the Arbor Day Foundation, which aims to plant trees worldwide. TikTokers were challenged to create videos dancing to the song “Trees” by the band, Twenty One Pilots. For every video created, a tree would be planted. The challenge quickly went viral, and in less than two months, the challenge currently planted over 23 million trees
The #movember challenge was the brainchild of Travis Garone and Luke Slattery. The challenge started as growing a mustache in November, but since then has become so much larger. Movember started with the idea of raising money for prostate cancer research but has since turned into a men’s health fund raiser. Movember has attracted over 5.5 million participants in over 20 countries, and generating over $911 million to fund 1,250 men’s health projects.
The #nomakeupselfie Although this is a very old challenge, it shows the powerful effect that social media and viral challenges have had over the last decadewas started in 2014 to raise a greater awareness for and funds for Cancer research UK, This challenge was said to raise £1 million British in the first 24 hours, and now it has raised over £8 million in 6 days for Cancer Research UK.
As parents, we must be aware of the content our children consume on social media platforms. We must educate them about the dangers of viral challenges and help them differentiate between positive and negative challenges. Our responsibility is to ensure that our children are safe and do not fall prey to harmful trends.
What can we do to keep our kids safe online?
- Educate yourself: Parents and educators must know the most popular social media apps and trends, dangerous online challenges, and monitoring and regulating their children’s use. Understand why your children want to participate on these popular platforms.
- Encourage creative and educational use: Encourage using social media for educational and creative purposes, avoiding excessive focus on fads, appearance, and body image.
- Foster self-esteem and confidence: It is crucial to redirect the young generation’s attention towards self-confidence and self-esteem, emphasizing internal rather than external validation.
- Communicate with children and young adults: Encourage open communication, advise and guide children and young adults towards responsible social media use, and teach them about social media stunts and the importance of balance.
Final thoughts on viral social media challenges
A critical aspect we need to consider is the influence of peer pressure. The need to belong, be accepted, and be part of a group can give our children a reason to try risky and dangerous behavior. Young children can be particularly vulnerable to peer pressure, and parents and educators are responsible for advising and guiding them regarding social media use.
Viral social media is a part of our social media culture, and while some can have a positive impact, others can be dangerous. Parents must ask questions, actively monitor their children’s online activity, and educate them about the risks associated with viral challenges. Creating awareness and promoting responsible social media behavior among our children is essential to ensure their safety and well-being with their time online.