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How to Talk to Your Teens About Dangerous ‘YouTube Challenges’

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here’s a good chance your child spends a considerable amount of time on the internet.

And though they’re probably watching harmless cat videos and celebrity interviews, YouTube has recently become the home for dangerous and disturbing “challenges,” that are causing serious injuries.

A YouTube challenge is usually a dare or task undertaken by someone, who then encourages or challenges other YouTubers to participate to see if they can complete it and post it for their followers. Some, like the “boyfriend does my makeup” challenge or the “chubby bunny” challenge are completely harmless, but others are becoming increasingly more dangerous.

The most recent craze, the “Tide Pod challenge” — where vloggers attempt to eat and swallow a laundry detergent pod — is the latest to spark health concerns.

The challenge has gone viral around the world, resulting in 39 cases of poisoning in the U.S. in just 15 days. Tide has now been forced to release a new campaign that warns people against eating their products.

Unfortunately, the “Tide Pod challenge” is only the latest in a long string of worrying videos. The “salt and ice challenge” — in which participants put salt on the skin and then mix it with ice and try to withstand the burning for as long as possible — resulted in individuals getting severe burns.

The “eye shot challenge” involves taking a shot of alcohol through your eyeball, which results in an instant high, but has produced instances of cornea scarring and alcohol poisoning.

The “fire challenge,” as idiotic as it sounds, involves pouring alcohol on your skin and lighting it on fire for your followers. Unsurprisingly, this resulted in second-degree burns for one young victim.

It’s easy to assume these things are localized incidents, but more and more people are trying these dangerous stunts. It’s now more important than ever to have a chat with your child about internet safety, peer pressure, and not engaging in dangerous behavior for views.

Now to Love spoke to child psychologist Dr. Kimberley O’Brien about how to have a conversation that protects and educates your child about the real consequences of internet challenges.

Why do kids get involved in dangerous challenges?

“They think it will be fun,” Dr O’Brien tells Now To Love. “They’re watching the reaction of the kids in the video, and there’s [a] lot of laughter and attention being given, [so] it appeals to kids that want to get more attention from their peers.”

It might also be about gaining social status. “There’s a hierarchy in the workplace, in the classroom, [and] in the schoolyard — there’s always some[one] vying for the top spot by someone who is the biggest risk-taker, or the most outgoing.”

What does it mean if my child is involved?

If you’ve discovered that your child is potentially involved in something like this, it can be quite a worrying experience. O’Brien suggests it could be indicative of “low self-esteem, poor decision-making skills, or a lack of insight into the consequences of these challenges.”

“I think it indicates a need for education around the facts — what the products are made from, or what would happen if you choked, etc. There needs to be more education from adults at school and at home.”

How do I prevent my kids from getting involved?

“It comes down to good supervision of kids when they’re online — putting the proper parental locks on YouTube, things like that. Also, having a close relationship with other adolescents so they might talk about these sorts of things. Sometimes they do test out reactions before they go and try it out,” O’Brien says.

“Keeping their friendship circles varied is good. Rather than investing all your time in the school-based friendships, it’s important to also invest time in local friendships around the neighborhood and having contact with same-age cousins, friends from older neighborhoods, old friends, etc. When you have different friendship groups, you can test out reactions from same-age peers and it doesn’t feel like a parent or a teacher telling you that it’s unsafe. It’s a good way to get different opinions on the same topic.”

How do I talk to my kids about internet safety and peer pressure?

It can be a tricky conversation to have, especially when it’s coming from a parent, which might seem overbearing or too protective to a teenager. O’Brien advises to approach it just like you would talk to your child about running on slippery surfaces or not eating dangerous foods.

“I would address this conversation like any other risk-taking behavior. Parents are already comfortable talking about not diving into shallow water because you could end up in a wheelchair or not inhaling toxins because you could get brain damage,” she says.

“Taking the approach of ‘I’ve seen this thing, it was really concerning, and I’m concerned about the long-term consequences of something that might seem like fun but really is dangerous.’ Letting them know about the risks, letting them know that these things are out there online at the moment, and making sure they’re the person in their group letting people know that these things aren’t safe, are all important.”

How should I talk to my child if I’ve discovered they’re participating in dangerous internet behavior?

Making sure that your child is surrounded by support and education is key, O’Brien says. If you’ve found out that your kids are potentially getting involved in concerning behavior, talk to friends, family, and their school.

“I would get a support team in place, talk to the year coordinator at the school, maybe suggest an education session at school on risk-taking behavior for everyone, so it’s not just mom having the conversation.”

But if you are concerned for their safety and health, O’Brien suggests seeking professional help. This is where your child can talk freely and openly about their behavior and get helpful tips and education on going forward.

This post was written by Katie Skelly. For more, check out our sister site Now to Love.

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