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Photo courtesy of-thethings.com

The Challenge of Keeping Our Kids Safe From Stupid Challenges

Because of video sharing, selfies, and all of the apps that go with it, it has opened up a huge can of worms that entices children to perform stupid, dangerous acts. These acts go viral, and challenges are born.

Here is a quick list of some of the idiotic challenges that are put forward, to kids who have access to phones, iPads, or any other internet device:

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Photo courtesy of-thethings.com
  1. Cinnamon Challenge- To be honest, this one has been around for many years, but with video capability, it made a resurgence so there is an audience, to watch what happens. You eat a spoonful of cinnamon, and try to swallow it. It is virtually impossible to swallow dry, so the challenge is to not have any water, or other liquid to help you get it down your throat. This can cause choking and burns the mouth, throat and sinuses. Kids share the video and laugh at how difficult it is-not considering the risks.
  2. Fire Challenge- The challenge-to put flammable liquid on your body to watch yourself burn. They use hand sanitizer, or rubbing alcohol on their bare skin and light themselves on fire. Doesn’t that sound safe? (Insert eye roll here). And, they do this while their parents are out of the house, typically, so there have been cases where houses catch fire, and kids are badly burned. Imagine, leaving your teenager at home, and entrusting him/her to be responsible. You come home to firetrucks and a child who is either dead, or badly burned, because they lit themselves on fire, for the thrill of an audience.
  3. Milk Challenge-Honestly, out of all of the stupid challenges, this one is probably the most safe, although there have been children who have gone into anaphylactic shock due to allergies or dairy sensitivities. The challenge is to force a gallon of milk into your body and try not to vomit. It is impossible to hold that much liquid in your stomach at one time, and inevitably there is video, of ensuing puking.
  4. Tide Challenge- This made huge news, as it became a huge sensation in teens and even their younger siblings. (Some as young as 5 years old). Basically, you take a Tide Pod, and eat it. Why? Because of the fun videos of your mouth burning and potential poisoning of yourself, for the sake of laughs on camera. That’s why. I still shake my head when I think of this one. Ridiculous. The fact that older kids don’t have the common sense to not feed these pods to their younger siblings makes me concerned for the next generation of our race.
  5. The Kiki Challenge- This one is for teenagers who are JUST learning the responsibilities of driving. I have also witnessed adults doing this on videos and it connects the dots as to why kids find these challenges so humorous. Basically, the challenge is to leave your car in DRIVE, hop out to this Kiki song playing over your speakers, ( I think Drake is the musician) and do dance moves while your car coasts beside you. The challenge is to finish the dance, and catch up to your vehicle, and jump back into the driver seat. Sometimes a passenger in the shotgun seat will record your dance moves, and other times, the driver relies on the dash cam to record it all. Seriously! You can watch all the “fails” for entertainment online. Good grief!
  6. The Car Surfing Challenge- Another “brilliant” teen challenge- Climbing up on top of a vehicle and “surfing on it” as it is in motion. The challenge is to see how long you can stay standing on top of the moving vehicle, and how fast the car goes, until you fall off. Of course it’s video’d and when the surfer falls from the vehicle, everyone laughs and laughs at the “epic fail bra”. Wow.
  7. The Condom Challenge- This went from bad to worse, real fast. The beginning of the condom challenge is to snort a condom up one nostril and pull it out the other, for the sake of your viewers. But, that wasn’t enough. The condom challenge then escalated to “Fill the condom full of water and stuff your head into it, to see how long you can breathe”. I can feel the collective IQ points drop, of these followers, even as I sit here, in utter shock. The top photo is an example of this stunt.
  8. Ice and Salt Challenge- The thrill of this one, is to cover your skin in a layer of salt, and see how long you can leave an ice cube attached to it. The salt breaks down the ice and the skin is left with second, or in some cases, third degree “ice burns”. Kids go to school and compare their wounds, and brag about how long they lasted before the pain was unbearable.
  9. Yet, there are TWO WORSE challenges that have surfaced this past year. Inconceivably, there are challenges that actually convince kids to commit suicide. It makes my skin crawl that our children are at these risks, and that there are monsters in our world, who come up with these ideas.
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Photo courtesy of-thethings.com

THE BLUE WHALE CHALLENGE- This is one of the online “bullying” or “predator” challenges, that seeks out teens who suffer from mental illness, and convince them to self mutilate, before finally, ending their life ON VIDEO.

It begins with the pact to carve an image of a blue whale, with a razor blade or knife, into your skin, to show your commitment to the “club”. After you have proven yourself with self mutilation, you are given a series of dangerous tasks to complete. Some kids are asked to conduct illegal activities, such as theft, or assault to another human, or even start buildings on fire. These acts all need to be captured on video or by photos.

If that isn’t enough to convince the challenger, you have take to on challenges for the Next Level, like jump from moving vehicles, jump off bridges, or other terrifying acts of attempted suicide. If you succeed and survive, you EARN the right to kill yourself on VIDEO for the world to see. In Russia this challenge spread like wild fire, and a 12 year old girl was reported to commit suicide publicly on Christmas Day.

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photo-theweek,UK

The Momo Challenge- This was the inspiration for me to write this article. I saw it on the News last night and was utterly horrified. The above image pops up in Whatsapp (via Facebook Messenger, typically)on unsuspecting kid’s phones. The target is typically as young as possible. There have been cases of 8 year old children being bullied by whoever the sadist is, on the other end.

Basically, the “Momo” sends messages, or even phones the kids, and tells them they HAVE to do strange and dangerous tasks, or they will be killed in their sleep. On the news, there was a young boy, around 6 years old, saying that his friend was told that he had to kill the family cat, or the Momo would kill him and his mommy in bed that night. The Momo also convinces the children that if they tell their parents, they will die.

WHAT KIND OF SICK WORLD IS THIS?

There are so many other stupid human challenges out there. There is another one called the Eye challenge- where the candidate tries to drown his eye in a bottle of vodka to get drunk faster.

Another one is the Ghost Pepper challenge- which has actually caused kids to go to hospital with a burnt larynx and tongue, while other children have had serious eye damage, due to rubbing the pepper in their eye inadvertently.

WHY DO PEOPLE DO THESE THINGS?

How do kids and adults fall into these dangerous, stupid stunts?
It’s actually a very easy answer, with many variables.

>Peer pressure.

>They are bullied or coerced by unknown internet trolls

>They are bullied by peers

> They want to “fit in”

>They want the fame of being noticed on the internet.

> They want to be “cool”.

> They are easily manipulated because they are over protected.

> They want to belong

> They have mental illness challenges

> They are coerced by older siblings that they trust

>They are desensitized by over stimulation of watching videos and TV shows where people die without emotional repercussion.

> They aren’t educated on the severity and risks they are taking.

> They are left with devices for their entertainment, secluded in their personal bubble

>They learn from their parents, that everything on the internet is prioritized and entertaining.

But here’s the MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF THE CHALLENGE PUZZLE:

They aren’t SUPERVISED. They aren’t EDUCATED. And, they don’t have the role models to ensure that they know the difference between safe and unsafe. These are young, developing brains, that are yet to be molded for consequence and cause and effect.

Parents are distracted. They get caught up in the ridiculous web that the internet has woven for all of us. They show their children these videos, or have them playing in the background, impacting their children’s thoughts and ideas. Parents are guilty of laughing at the idiots on their phone or iPad screens, and as they are laughing, their children see that the stupid tricks are taking their parents’ focus from them. So, what do they want? Their parents’ attention.

So, what do you think they will do, in order to gain that same attention? They will perform stupid tricks too. If they don’t gain the reaction from their parents, they will find someone else who will focus on them. And, round, round we go.

Everyone is on video doing epic fails, ridiculous stunts, and unbelievably dangerous tricks, FOR ATTENTION. Even if the stunter is not trying to gain focus and viral fame, the person behind the video gizmo is.

The internet has given our kids permission to be stupid, and parents need to step in and make it stop, before it’s too late.

But, HOW?

There is such an up rise on Mental Health issues with children from 12 years old and up now. There is evidence that this is due to the internet and the dysfunction it brings int families.

In all honesty, I see it all the time-parents are distant with their children, more so now, than ever. How many times do you see parents in public, staring at their phones while their children play sports, dance on stages for practices, eat dinner at restaurants, or walk down the street. If they are this distracted in public, during every day activities, what does home life look like?

On the surface, parents really try to connect with their children and be “present”, yet, it is so common for families to get caught up in the rat race of giving their kids everything they want, in order to present as Quality parents.

I am not saying this applies to EVERY parent, just to clarify. But screen time and activities that take away a parent’s focus on their children, is now classified as “normal behavior”.

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash
  1. Focus on Children’s Developmental Needs, Not the Child’s “wants”- It is easy to always try and please your kiddo, to keep them from crying, or being angry with you. Days at work are long, and it’s easier to come home and give your children what they want, just so the house is peaceful. But do they “NEED” what you are providing them? Do they need to play that game, while you cook supper, or can they read a book instead? Do they need that iPad, or is it easier to give in, to avoid conflict?
  2. Not Every Decision is For the Child’s Satisfaction- Sometimes, you need to look over your kid’s shoulder and see what they are doing, even if you think that you are disrespecting their boundaries. Check your kid’s phones, iPads and computers to see what they are doing. Remember that you are the adult who is supposed to make informed, safe decisions for your child, even if they are upset that you are checking up on them. That is your job, until they have the responsibility and cognizance to live on their own. Look in their bedrooms and do status checks on their mental awareness and health. It is not about appeasing their boundaries, it is about keeping them safe and mentally healthy.
  3. Be Present- Put your gizmos and gadgets away when your kids are home. The Facebook status and Instagram pictures can wait until the kids have gone to bed. By making face value with your children a priority, you are teaching them values and respect. You are showing them love and commitment. You are modeling human interaction and self esteem.
  4. Show Empathy for Them and Teach Them About Lessons of Loss- In the real world, death and injuries are tragic. They are painful events that are not meant for humor or audiences. Include your children in funerals and the process of palliative care. If a family pet dies, allow your kids to grieve and mourn the loss. Don’t hide the body of your family dog from them, include them in a service to put the body at rest. On TV and the Net, death and pain have become a part of the entertainment of our world, and not an emotional event. Sweeping real life pain under the rug to protect your children, only convinces them further that it’s not real, creating a desensitized, non compassionate world for them.
  5. Talk With Them- Have open and honest conversations WITH them, and not at them. Start open ended conversations with them, to hear their response. “I saw this ridiculous thing on the news today, about children doing a Tide challenge. Have you heard of anyone doing it?” Let them TALK. Listen to what they have to say, and gear the conversation accordingly. Don’t show them videos, or expose them to the propaganda of it all. Make them aware of the dangers and repercussions, after you allow them time and space to speak their mind. “What do you think would happen if someone swallowed a Tide pod?” -Let them answer

Explain to them the consequences of the dangerous effects of taking these challenges, and use REAL words, without sugar coating it. “You could die”. “You could become very sick and end up in the hospital”. Relate your words to real life scenarios, and not videos on the web. “You will die like Grandma did last year. You will no longer have your home, your friends, your life and you will make your parents very sad and angry that you did something so dangerous.” Be emotional and focused when you talk with them. Make them scared and aware.

Society has begun to sugar coat every little thing, leaving our children to live these ambiguous lives. Mom and dad want to protect their little ones from real heart ache and pain, or sadness, and even anger. They bubble wrap them on playgrounds and helicopter them while they are in school, yet at home, they give their kids whatever they want, in order to maintain a sense of peace and quiet in the home.

In the end, these kids become caught up in peer pressures, bullying, and the need to be focused on. They yearn for an audience, and for attention. They become entitled, yet still ache for real, honest relationships. They want to be risky, and see what they are capable of, and to strip off the bubble wrap, but they don’t know how.

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Photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash

Allow them to engage in risky play on playgrounds, to test their limits. Let them stretch their own fears and try new activities that are out of their comfort zone-but supervise them. If they fall, they will learn. If they scrape their knee- they will be more careful. But they will feel what pain is like, on their own terms. They will understand cause and effect. They will figure out that injuries aren’t always “epic fails” that command a screen audience for the sake of laughter. The real CHALLENGES of life, is living day to day and experiencing real situations. Allowing your child to learn self challenges, is the healthy way for them to grow and mature.

Stop allowing videos of failures in your home, for the fun of laughter. Teach your kids that seeing other people get hurt, is NOT humorous and that they should feel compassion for them. Show them what empathy is, by modeling your sorrow and sadness for other people’s misery. Show them humility and privacy.

The internet is provoking all of us with these prompt challenges, every day. Water challenges, weight loss challenges, money challenges, fundraising challenges, and on and on. It is in our face, all the time, telling us that we need to be extreme, because it’s trendy. Teach your kids to not buy into prompts, and to just live.

Read them books about bullying, cyber bullying and the dangers of peer pressure. EDUCATE THEM. Don’t rely on schools to teach your children values, ethics and emotional intelligence. They will not learn about real life, sitting in a classroom, with a curriculum. Your job is to teach your children right from wrong, emotional strengths and weaknesses, coping mechanisms and how to avoid being manipulated by others.

Be the adult. Be the parent. The internet cannot do this job for you.

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Writer of relationships / early childhood and mental health . Poetry and fiction dabbler

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