The popular app TikTok, which skyrocketed in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic, is notorious for its viral challenges. Unfortunately, many challenges veer into dangerous territory, leading to destructive behavior and risky actions.
One such challenge, “Devious Lick,” has resulted in vandalized bathrooms, shattered floor tiles, and stolen safety signage. These chaotic scenes have garnered hundreds of thousands of views on TikTok. Still, experts warn parents to monitor their children’s online activity and stay informed about the dangerous trends on the platform.
Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D., a media psychologist based in Newport Beach, California, says, “Teenagers will always be attracted to something a bit dangerous and risky.” Therefore, parents must be vigilant about their children’s exposure to such content.
One example of a hazardous trend is the “borg” challenge. This concoction typically involves alcohol, electrolytes, caffeinated flavoring, and water mixed in a one-gallon jug. The supposed purpose of the drink is to maintain hydration while consuming large amounts of alcohol, slow down the intoxication process, and prevent hangovers.
Unfortunately, the challenge has had the opposite effect for some. Nearly 30 University of Massachusetts Amherst students have been hospitalized due to binge drinking related to the challenge, and UMass Police have recently reported two arrests for underage drinking.
As dangerous trends continue emerging on TikTok, parents must remain vigilant and informed while fostering open communication with their children about the risks and consequences of participating in these challenges.
The Benadryl Challenge: A Risky High
The Benadryl challenge, which involves excessive antihistamine consumption, has led to at least one death and prompted the FDA to release a report on the challenge and subsequent hospitalizations. The drug, when abused, can cause seizures, heart problems, comas, and even death.
Blackout Challenge: A Deadly Game
The blackout challenge, known as the “choking challenge” or “pass-out challenge,” has been around for years, with 82 deaths attributed to the choking game between 1995 and 2008 by the CDC. In addition, the fad has been linked to approximately 20 minor deaths in recent months. Dr. Rutledge warns that tweens and teens are more susceptible to social pressures, making it harder for them to assess risks in such life-threatening challenges.
Dragon’s Breath Challenge: Frozen Dangers
The Dragon’s Breath challenge involves eating candy coated in liquid nitrogen, which gained popularity due to the vapor it emits when eaten. However, liquid nitrogen can be hazardous if improperly ingested, leading to skin burns, stomach aches, and food poisoning. Indonesia issued an advisory against the trend after over 20 children were hospitalized.
Orbeez Shooting Challenge: A Growing Threat
The Orbeez shooting challenge, which encourages using toy guns to fire gel pellets at bystanders, has led to several arrests in the United States. Though soft, the pellets can cause injury, especially when frozen. The challenge may have lost some traction, but a new destructive trend, “The Kool-Aid Man,” has emerged, prompting the arrest of six minors after they “blasted through” a fence as part of the challenge, which involves running through walls and fences.
Beezin’ Challenge: An Eye-Opening Risk
Beezin’, a challenge that involves rubbing Burt’s Bees lip balm onto the eyelids, is believed to enhance alertness or heighten one’s buzz. However, the challenge has dangerous side effects, including eye inflammation, irritation, milia, and even vision loss. As a result, Burt’s Bees released a statement warning against the trend, stating that many natural things should not go in the eyes.
The Allure of Risky Challenges on TikTok
With 50 million daily TikTok users in the U.S., the question remains: what drives users to engage in these risky challenges? Digital wellness expert Dr. Joanne Orlando believes that the crowded social media space pushes users to extreme and risky behaviors to get noticed. Dr. Rutledge adds that challenges act as a dare, triggering our innate needs to fit in, be accepted, and prove ourselves.
TikTok’s Response and the Future of Dangerous Challenges
As calls to ban TikTok grow amid privacy concerns, the app has introduced a one-hour-a-day screen time limit for users under 18. However, many experts, including Dr. Rutledge, doubt the effectiveness of such controls, comparing bans to holding beach balls underwater: “You can ban one platform, but another platform will always pop up.”
Parents should stay informed and communicate with their children about the risks and consequences of participating in such activities.