Children, teens participate in viral challenges for social media recognition

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NEW YORK — The growth of social media has helped the spread of so-called viral challenges. PIX11 is taking an in-depth look into why teenagers and children are drawn to these stunts, many of them with dangerous consequences.

PIX11 brought together a group of six Brooklyn students. None have attempted these life-threatening challenges, but they spoke at length about friends who have.

When asked, “do you have any friends that have tried these viral challenges?” It was a resounding yes.

“My friend tried the cinnamon challenge he had to go to the hospital for a week after doing it,” said Austin Grant, age 13.

“My friends have tried the ghost pepper challenge it’s a really hot pepper and it burns people’s mouths and some people were like throwing up,” said Nora Browne, 12.

“The Vaseline challenge so you basically take a spoonful of Vaseline and then you eat it,” said Gladys Effah-Boadi, 13.

So what drives kids to take a chance with their life? We spoke with a behavior specialist.

“We all want our 15 minutes of fame and kids are using the social media challenges to get that,” said Dr. Marcie Beigel.

“They do get viral very quickly because of how popular they are,” said Damian Modica, 13.

Dr. Biegel says it’s become so much more than just peer pressure. It is social media recognition.

The pursuit of followers, likes and retweets, is driving some kids to risky behavior.

“Children are seeing something happen by a celebrity or someone who got a million likes for it or a million followers for it and they want that attention,” said Biegel.

Wanting that attention can come at a hefty price.

In recent months, teens recording themselves eating laundry detergent pods in the so-called “Tide Pod Challenge” has sent some to the hospital.

Another disturbing recent challenge, the so-called condom challenge, which involves snorting a condom up one nose and down and out through your mouth.

Who can forget the 12-year-old Bronx girl doused with boiling water last summer during a sleepover – the innocent victim of the “hot water challenge.” Today, she’s lucky to be alive.

Dr. Biegel has advice for parents on what they should look out for.

“it’s also being clear and direct and saying ‘you know I was watching YouTube today and this feed came up where kids were doing crazy things they were throwing boiling water on themselves’ ‘what are they thinking’ and see what your kid says.”

Dr. Beigel also suggests checking your kids social media regularly to see what and how much they know and gauging their opinions in a judgement-free zone.

“They need to be talking to their kids about it on an ongoing basis, social media is not a one-time conversation.

The students in our group say they’ve had discussions with their parents.

“My mom she always tells me to be a leader not a follower,” said Clevea Johnson, age 14.

12-year-old Brianna Thompson says her parents told her, “Be careful what you watch cause not everything you watch could be safe.”

Social media and viral challenges don’t seem to be going anywhere.
But making your children aware of the boundary between a fun harmless dare and a darker, more risky one makes all the difference.

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