As all of us parents already know, our children and especially our teenagers sometimes do silly things; it’s part of growing up. When we were young, though, and someone dared us to do something dumb, we had to do it in person. A dare just wasn’t worth it if there was no one to see you do it. That also meant that, if something went wrong, there were other kids around to help, or at least to run off screaming for the grown-ups. Today, though, dares can happen through the Internet, with kids taking video of themselves completing (or trying to complete) dangerous challenges.
Unfortunately, while kids have access to information and technology far beyond what previous generations had, the same lack of frontal lobe development that made older generations take stupid risks is still present. Which is why it’s important to keep an open dialogue with your kids, and to talk about social media dare games.
The Dangers of Social Media Dare Games
Some dares you see on social media really are harmless, or they’re for a good cause. We all remember the huge sensation that was the ice bucket challenge, which was used to raise money for medical research. However, other dares can be dangerous, and are sometimes outright fatal.
The Choking Game:
According to The Stir, the way this game works is that a participant denies themselves oxygen until they pass out, film the experience, and then upload it to their social media. Why? Well, because the dare meets all the requirements for “silly” things kids have done for centuries. There’s an element of risk, proof that you did it, and the acclaim that comes from stepping up to a challenge. Unfortunately, though, lots of kids also know they’d get in trouble if their parents caught them even attempting this “dare,” so they do it when they’re alone. Which means if something goes wrong while they’re strangling themselves, there’s no one around to help.
Sadly, this is what happened to Karnel Haughton in Birmingham, England. The 11-year-old had an otherwise normal, happy life, but decided he was going to show everyone he could accomplish this challenge. Sadly, he didn’t survive the attempt.
The FireSpray Challenge:
Social media have been flooded with videos of young people creating dragon-breath style puffs of fire by putting flame into contact with flammable liquid. It began when one teen Instagram user gave the stunt a try and tagged the video post #FireSprayChallenge. Even before this crazy dare game kids and teens were taking the #FireChallenge online, this was another very popular challenge that went viral that involved that dousing oneself with a flammable liquid like rubbing alcohol, then lighting yourself on fire before jumping into a shower or pool. One quick search online shows several reports of teens with serious third- or fourth-degree burns. One story discusses and 11-year-old boy in the U.K. who underwent a skin graft after the social media “dare” went terribly wrong.
The Cinnamon Challenge:
The dare encourage participants to swallow a tablespoon of the spice without any water, can lead to vomiting, choking and possibly even include a trip to the ER. That dare became so popular that within the first three months of 2012, poison centers nationwide received 139 calls that involved cinnamon overdoses.
The Kylie Jenner Challenge:
This pretty recent trend in which teens attempt to get lips that supposedly resemble the lips of Kim Kardashian’s youngest sister Kylie. In this “dare” teens take a shot glass or similar and place it over their lips, and suck. You can view the results yourself with a quick search of the hashtag #KylieJennerChallenge.
The Salt and Ice Challenge:
This challenge encourages children to place salt and ice together on their skin. However, salt lowers the temperature of ice to as low as negative 17 degrees Celsius or 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and the effect on skin can be similar to frostbite. Because of the redness and numbness from the ice, kids often don’t realize that they are giving themselves potentially second-degree burns. Part of this challenge is to see who can stand the pain the longest and post the proof with photos or videos of their burns to social media.
Talk To Your Kids About The Dare Culture
The best defense against something like this happening in your family is to be open and honest with your kids about the challenges they’ll face. While dares like this have existed since the dawn of time, this new form of the culture is something you have to stop with words, and with trust. Make it clear that your kids can come to you, and that you will listen to them without judgment when they talk about stuff like this.
Kids want acceptance, and accomplishing a dare (no matter how ridiculous it may look to use adults from the outside) is a way to do that. Whether it’s trying to eat an entire bottle of cinnamon, or jumping off the roof, onto a trampoline, and into the pool, nothing is out of the question when it comes to stuff kids may attempt. Which is why, even if you disapprove, you should make sure they feel safe coming to you and asking about these things. And, no matter how silly something seems, remember that kids don’t have the ability to assess risks like adults do. Their brains have not biologically developed yet. You need to talk to them, and point out all the things they have not yet thought of which makes this dare a bad idea.
Best of all, though, these dares are a great way to teach risk assessment, and problem solving. Walking your kids through the challenge, and why it’s a bad idea, means that next time they’ll be able to recognize a dangerous challenge when someone throws down the gauntlet.
As parents, it is more important than ever that we teach our kids how to set boundaries. One of the most important boundaries comes in the form of how they use their social media including any YouTube accounts that they may have created, open the discussion about social media self-esteem. In order to make sure that your kids stay healthy and successful, make sure that you are taking the necessary time to learn what you need to about monitoring their technology use (learn about parental controls for Snapchat).
It is always easier to help your children and teens to maintain a healthy relationship with technology when you use a parental control software. Netsanity provides a great service called appblocker that can keep your child off of a particular app for a certain period of time or you feel that it has come to the point that being on a particular app has become damaging to them.
Continuing the conversation about staying safe will do more to keep your tweens and teen safe more than any other action that you can take!
Also published on Medium.