Of all the social media platforms children love to spend time on, the one that trumps them all is YouTube. It’s also one of the platforms that children view from a younger age than most other social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram.
There’s no doubt that kids engage far more with video than with text. For starters, if they can’t read yet, or are not keen on reading, they can still engage in video content. Even if they’re keen readers, it’s quicker and easier to watch videos, and often easier to understand the message being shared.
Unfortunately there are several problems with YouTube. First and foremost is that anyone with an internet connection and an electronic device can create and post a video there – without YouTube approving the type of content contained. As per any site where the content is user-generated, there’s always going to be a mix of high quality content and very poor quality content.
Secondly, it’s really quite simple to record a video of yourself and post it on YouTube. Kids can do this from a very young age, and most think it’s a pretty cool thing to do – what better way to express yourself in the 21st century?
What Are The Dangerous Challenges On YouTube?
Lots of kids on YouTube create videos of themselves performing different challenges. Some of them are innocent, funny and harmless – like watching short, funny videos and trying not to laugh. But some of them are downright dangerous, can do permanent damage and can even be lethal – like choking yourself or someone else, or swallowing cinnamon or hot chillies.
One of the most recent dangerous challenges on YouTube is the ‘Tide Pod challenge’. This is where you attempt to consume a plastic laundry detergent pod, which can lead to vomiting, seizures, losing consciousness and more.
One of the other more disturbing challenges is the ‘Salt and Ice’ challenge. This is where you put salt somewhere on your skin and then add ice cubes – often causing second and third-degree burns (not to mention a large degree of pain).
And then there’s the eyeball challenge, where you pour a shot of hard liquor directly into your eye socket.
Why Do They Do It?
If you’re a rational person reading this, your jaw may have dropped and you may have made audible noises by now reading the above. It’s difficult to comprehend why anyone who isn’t mentally unhinged would attempt something so harmful and dangerous, and downright stupid. But you’d be surprised.
Most of the kids who attempt these challenges are not mentally unhinged at all. They’re usually perfectly happy, and are often quite intelligent in fact.
So why on earth do they do it?
Several reasons. Commonly it’s just considered a fun thing to do. Many kids don’t think about the dangers involved, it’s just a joke that they can use to entertain others. Some kids genuinely don’t realise what can happen as a result of the challenge.
When it comes to social media, the pressure on kids to be cool, fit in and be popular is massive. Lots of kids judge themselves based on how many likes they get on a post, how many friends or followers they have, or how many subscribers they have to their YouTube channel. Being considered unpopular on social media is social suicide, and a common cause of anxiety and depression in teens.
There’s always been peer pressure on kids to fit in and to do what everyone else is doing – nobody wants to feel left out, especially not a teenager. Unfortunately there’s a misconception that “everyone” is taking part in these dangerous challenges, whereas this is not the case. However the belief that everyone is doing it leads to more kids following suit. It’s amazing and often terrifying how far kids will go to fit in – peer pressure is more intense now than ever.
What Can You Do About It?
As a parent, it’s important firstly to be aware of what your kids are seeing and doing on YouTube. A great way to find out is to ask them if their friends have YouTube channels, and if so what sort of videos do they post?
Ask your kids if they’ve heard of these YouTube challenges. I’ll be surprised if they say no. Rather than launching into a lecture on how stupid these challenges are, you’re better off asking them why they think other kids do these things, and what they think of them? Your child may have no intention of doing anything like this themselves, so there’s no need to berate them for something they haven’t done.
If your child does express an interest in creating their own videos and trying some challenges out, they need to understand just how dangerous they are. Teens have died and been permanently injured as a result of many different YouTube challenges. It’s nothing short of horrifying – the more you find out about them, the worse you realise it is.
At the very least, have your child promise you they’ll talk to you first before attempting any sort of challenge, whether it be dangerous or not (often kids don’t realise the challenges can end with serious injury or death). Reassure them they won’t get in trouble for approaching you about it.
It’s also helpful to acknowledge the peer pressure your child may feel to be popular online. This pressure is very real and very powerful, and should not be under-estimated.