The internet can be a crazy and unfathomable place. Random things go viral in the blink of an eye and there is always a fad or trend happening across the interwebs.
One such trend is online challenges. Think of the Ice Bucket Challenge and Planking. Some challenges start out to raise awareness, or for a bit of fun, however some are down right dangerous and others have a much more sinister motive.
A key part of most of these games is that the players film themselves doing it and share it on the internet. Obviously, notoriety and getting “likes” is all part of the motivation, along with a hefty dose of FOMO (Fear of missing out). Teenagers and young adults are usually the ones undertaking these acts and get a kick out of any attention they draw. However it’s worth noting that younger kids get in on the action too, copying what they see on YouTube.
Unfortunately, kids and teens often lack impulse control, can be easily swayed by peer pressure and are keen to outdo each other, all of which makes these challenges even more dangerous. It’s all fun and games until someone ends up in hospital, or much worse.
Here are 10 online challenges that every parent needs to be aware of:
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/Chilli Challenge – Another food challenge, this one involves eating the spiciest chilli you can get your hands on. Obviously this can lead to a lot of pain and discomfort. A lesson many YouTubers have learnt the hard way.
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.
As much as we’d like to, it is impossible to censor the internet or completely shelter our children from exposure to viral fads and challenges such as these. That is why it is important to keep abreast of what is happening online and look for warning signs of dangerous behaviour. Frank and open discussions with our kids about cyber bullying and personal safety are also very important.