Internet Challenges: Are Likes and Views Worth the Safety Risks?
In our age of smartphones, Instagram influencers, and YouTube celebrities, many young people dream of going “viral,” or having their picture, video, or content rapidly and widely circulated around the internet. One way that some strive to accomplish this is by participating in popular internet challenges.
Internet Challenges: The Good, the Bad, and the Deadly
In internet challenges, people try silly stunts or reenact phenomena from popular culture. Some, like the ice bucket challenge, which encouraged people to dump cold water over their heads in order to raise awareness for ALS, have charitable goals. Others are just for laughs, like the videos of weird and wild dancing to the song “Harlem Shake.” Many internet challenges are amusing and innocent, and give people the chance to let their guard down and have some fun.
But because this is the internet, after all, it’s not all fun and games. Several viral internet challenges in the last few years have encouraged mean-spirited, offensive, and downright dangerous behavior. For example, the chubby bunny challenge, in which people stuff marshmallows in their mouth, presents a choking risk. The recent joke about eating laundry pods led to concerns about illness and poisoning. Some challenges are based on how long someone can withstand a painful situation, which encourages people to harm themselves.
Internet Challenges Gone Wrong
In some cases, internet challenges have even turned deadly. Earlier this year, a Minnesota woman pleaded guilty to second degree manslaughter after accidentally shooting her boyfriend in a YouTube stunt. In 2016, a mysterious challenge called “The Blue Whale Challenge”allegedly encouraged young people to harm themselves or commit suicide, leading to dozens of deaths across the world.
Even when an internet challenge has an innocent intent, it can still have dangerous consequences. A Florida man recently learned this the hard way. He was participating in the “In My Feelings” challenge. Inspired by a new song by the rapper Drake, which involves the seemingly simple act of mimicking the dance moves from one of Drake’s music videos. The man, from Boynton Beach, decided to try out the challenge in the middle of the street. When tried to jump up on the hood of a moving car, he was hit head-on by the vehicle. Luckily, he walked away with only minor scrapes. And now he has gone viral, just not in the way he wanted to.
Having Fun While Staying Safe
Viral internet challenges are not always inherently dangerous, but as these recent tragedies and mishaps show, even a fun thing can quickly take a hazardous turn. Whether you’re a parent or guardian, viral-craving teen, or simply someone who thinks the latest challenge looks like fun, here are some tips to keep in mind.
- If you are a parent or guardian, teach your children about safe internet habits, and give them any ground rules, like websites to stay away from
- If necessary, monitor your child’s search history or block certain websites
- Have a conversation with your child if you think they are venturing into dangerous online territory or participating in risky behavior
- For adults who want to get involved with viral challenges, alcohol or drugs should not be involved
- Avoid stunts that involve anything that seems inherently dangerous—just use common sense
- Don’t participate in dangerous behavior that could put others at risk, like filming yourself behind the wheel
- Any challenge that involves dangerous driving behavior is a bad idea, as you are endangering not only yourself, but others on the roads
- If something makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t feel obligated to do it
Remember, likes or laughs are temporary, but an injury or accident during a viral challenge can lead to long-term consequences. Be safe out there on the internet!
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