The ice bucket challenge is making the rounds on social media in a big way this summer. Everyone from athletes, celebs and your friends on Facebook are ready to dump a bucket of ice water over their head and film it, all to raise money for a cure to Lou Gehrig’s disease.
But there are several OTHER challenges out there on social media that are luring teens and children into doing dangerous things.
At a privately run after school program in Macon some kids recently tried the sleep challenge or pass out game, as it’s been called, after one of them saw it on social media.
"My friend started talking about this thing called the sleeping challenge. That was the first time I heard of it. She told us the directions and then people just started doing it. They did it on me, but it didn’t work. And then I started doing it on others. It worked," says 10-year-old Zaniya.
Zaniya, whose last name is being withheld because of her age explains that the sleep challenge is played by taking some quick breaths and then another person presses on your chest until you faint.
The kids got caught by Phylis Wallace, a mom that works at the program.
"I said don’t do that because, yes, they wake up on Facebook, but you could get brain damage, you know, you could die!"
Another challenge making the rounds on social media rounds is the fire challenge. This involves pouring rubbing alcohol on your skin and lighting a flame. If done right, the alcohol causes a flash and is not supposed to burn your skin. Twelve-year-old Destiny, another child at the after-school program, tried it. As she shows me the burn on her hand she says she wouldn’t try it again.
"I seen the news. And this woman got arrested. Her son did it and it got severe and she got arrested. And then I was just thinking about the danger I could put my mom in and no, I’m not doing it again," she said.
Dr. Barbara Greenberg is a mom, clinical psychologist and author of the book Teenage as a Second Language. She’s taken a closer look at teens and social media.
"The very, very interesting thing here is it’s not simply that teens are not aware of risk…it’s just that they focus on the positives more than they focus on the risk."
What are the positives? Connection, doing something together, fitting in.
The negatives? It seems that today’s challenges for young people center around pain. But Greenberg says "No, I don’t think they want to feel pain. I think the motivating forces are that they want to fit in and they want to join the group."
Joining the group today often means posting videos to YouTube or Facebook of attempts at dangerous challenges. A study released in June found that while 79% of youth have never used the Internet or social media to reinvent themselves, one in three felt more accepted on social media than they do in real life.
Greenberg says despite acceptance the best thing to do is try to limit your child’s exposure to social media to no more than two hours a day. She says there are lots of great things happening on social media, but there are lots of no-so-great challenges as well.
Speaking of challenges, when I asked Destiny, who tried the fire challenge, and the other girls if they knew about the ice bucket challenge they said yes. When I asked them if they would do it, they all emphatically said no. When I asked them why, they simply said it doesn’t interest them.