Social media originated to help us stay in touch with friends and family, but for better or worse has evolved into a source of news, entertainment, political discussion, marketing and more. With billions of users spread across just the top three social platforms, there’s a built-in audience ready to make virtually anything go viral.
While many viral trends are fun, others can be deceiving. A recent Instagram post from Plant A Tree asked people to share a picture of their pet, promising a tree would be planted for each one. Tap or click here to see what happened next.
Then there are viral challenges that regularly gain momentum among young users on popular apps like TikTok, ranging from harmless to downright dangerous. The latest viral trend isn’t even new. The “blackout challenge” has been around for more than a decade and it’s once again leading to injuries — even death.
Here’s the backstory
In 2008, the CDC reported on “the choking game,” in which participants choke themselves or someone else in pursuit of a “high.” The deaths of 82 young people were linked to this game, many of them males aged 11-16 years. The CDC found that most of the deaths occurred when a child engaged in the choking game by themselves and that their parents were not aware of the game.
The challenge has found its way onto social media, where it poses an even larger threat due to how easily it can spread among users. Just this month, a death in Pennsylvania involving a 10-year-old girl. Nyla Anderson was found unconscious as a result of the challenge, according to her mother, and died later at a hospital.
While TikTok was not named by the victim’s mother, the platform does host many challenge videos.
“This disturbing ‘challenge,’ which people seem to learn about from sources other than TikTok, long predates our platform and has never been a TikTok trend,” a spokesperson told People Magazine.
Keeping your children safe
Here are a few tips to help keep your children from taking part in dangerous viral trends:
- Have a discussion with your children, stressing the dangers many viral challenges pose.
- Check up on their phone and enable parental controls. Tap or click here to learn how to monitor your child’s smartphone activity.
- The Parent’s Guide to TikTok provides tips for keeping children safe on the platform, including restricting content, parental controls and privacy.
🚨 What it means for you
Regardless of where they originate, a good rule of thumb is to assume your children are aware of these viral (and often dangerous) challenges long before you first hear about them. That includes years-old trends like the “blackout challenge.”
✅ Never underestimate the power of peer pressure. While you might wonder how short-lived trends like the “Milk Crate Challenge” ever took off in the first place, a number of people were hurt. Tap or click here for Kim’s take on another moronic viral challenge, this time involving condoms and garlic.
✅ Need help? Kim created the Kids’ Tech Contract to assist in setting boundaries, including limitations on device usage, apps and websites. Tap or click here for the full document that you and your child can sign. Also spread the word to family members and friends.