Social media is ubiquitous, with new platforms cropping up each year. Social media can be an outlet for communication and is designed to bridge the distance between users around the world. Many children growing up today have never been without social media, and parents continue to try to educate themselves about how to keep their children connected and safe.
Social media challenges are a relatively recent phenomenon, the most notable of which may be the Ice Bucket Challenge that helped to raise awareness about the disease ALS. Participants poured buckets of ice water over their heads and the heads of others. The stunt went viral and many people around the world ended up donating money to ALS research as a result. Since then, many different challenges have emerged, most of which have become lighthearted and entertaining ways to escape boredom or unite people in support of a good cause.
Flip The Switch was started by singer and musician Drake in 2020 that had two people participating in a video. A person in the foreground looks in a mirror while the person in the background dances to Drake’s “Nonstop.” When the song reaches the lyrics, “Look, I just flipped the switch, I don’t know nobody else that’s doing’ this,” the lights go out and when they’re back on the people in the video have switched places. Some also switch their clothes.
A previous social media challenge known as the Bird Box Challenge involved people being inspired by Netflix’s meme-worthy original movie “Bird Box.” Individuals blindfolded themselves while attempting daily tasks.
Newer challenges on the popular TikTok app have people replicating dance moves or lip-synching to popular songs. The Until Tomorrow challenge asks people to post embarrassing photos of themselves.
The darker side of challenges
Most social media challenges are created with fun in mind, and children and parents are joining in on the entertainment. But like other aspects of social media use, challenges have a potential dark side as well. According to the Daily Mail, 130 teenagers committed suicide due to a challenge called The Blue Whale. In this challenge, young participants embarked on a series of feats over 50 days that became more complicated and dangerous as time went on, causing injuries to animals and participants.
The Miami Herald reported last year that children were injured from the Skullbreaker Challenge, which was a challenge involving two pranksters and an unsuspecting individual, who had his or her feet kicked out from under while jumping in the air.
Other dangerous challenges have involved kids playing with fire, erasing their skin with pencil erasers and balancing on the top of cars while they were in motion.
Families can have open conversations about social media use and touch on the popularity of new challenges – pinpointing what is safe and what is not. Parents are urged to always monitor kids’ social media use so they can stay up-to-date about any challenges their children are considering. Kids can be encouraged to speak to their parents or adults at school about pressures from peers to engage in challenges that may make them leery.