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Viral Video Challenges: A Safety Perspective


Trends have existed since long before the dawn of the internet, but social media has drawn more attention to them, and what once might take a season or a year to take hold can now become a sensation in minutes. On Facebook, viral videos or "challenges" began to pop up every so often, such as it did with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Now, with the surging popularity of the Tik Tok app, kids are following and participating in viral video challenges at more regular intervals.  

Video Challenges Can Be Fun! 

The majority of these challenges have no greater intention than drawing in views and likes and offer kids an amusing way to build on their social media community. Typically, since Tik Tok is a music and entertainment-based application, the challenges will be dance-related such as the "Git Up" or "Renegade." However, problems begin to arise when these viral videos promote activities that are reckless and dangerous.

The willingness of people to engage in questionable activities for the sake of social media was not born with Tik Tok. As many will recall, the "Planking Challenge" which circulated for quite some time on Facebook, saw individuals taking huge and dangerous risks in the hopes of generating a photo that would draw the most public attention. However, with Tik Tok being entirely video-based, the opportunity exists to provide detailed step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish these dares, including active demonstrations that are harmful. 

Warning: Dangerous Content Ahead 

Several iterations of these dangerous viral videos have included setting oneself on fire; repeatedly spraying products on the skin or glue to their lips, both of which may cause long-lasting or even permanent problems; and "car surfing," which involves standing on the roof of a moving vehicle and has resulted in death in some instances. Most recently, several fire departments across the country have been warning parents and children about the latest sensation call the "Penny Challenge." These videos provide instructions on how to use a penny and electronic charging cord to generate sparks from an electrical socket, which kids are filming and then sharing their results. Several of these attempts have gone awry and caused fires that damaged personal residences, and in at least one instance, even a middle school.

Teens and Risky Behavior 

It has been cited by medical research that teenagers lack the fully developed prefrontal cortex, which allows for sound decision-making. Biologically they may be predisposed to taking risks their parents would never entertain. Additionally, these kids are feeling peer pressure to engage in behaviors that's so many others are also doing online. As a parent, what can you do to prevent your child from making a poor decision that could put them or others in harm?

The Riverside County Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE)/Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force recommends reviewing our detailed information on how to handle online safety. Periodically taking a few minutes to search viral videos trending in the news may provide you an offensive take on the subject. Beyond managing screen time or applications, our strongest internet safety guideline is encouraging conversations on the matter with your children. Making the time to commit to open dialogue with your teen daily about their day-to-day activities should include what they are seeing or experiencing online. If you're aware of concerning behavior occurring online, submit a tip to us and we will follow up. Should the problem be affecting a more significant part of your community, we are also available for presentations to larger groups or schools.

Just as they did when kids were crimping their hair or collecting beanie babies, all of these fads will fade with time. The power of the internet is just bringing them to our collective consciousness at a faster rate, and they flame out in similar rapid fashion. With the presence of mind to monitor these fads and talk to your teens about them, you'll be better able to steer them to the fun stuff while staying wary of the bad.