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Social media challenges pose dangers to even the most well-adjusted kids, experts say

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Published in Science & Technology News

A recent FDA warning about the latest social media challenge to go viral has brought renewed focus on the dangerous trend that endangers impressionable children and teens.

The need for affirmation on social media heightened by peer pressure can lead to dangerous consequences, as stunts like eating a Tide detergent pod, holding one’s breath until they pass out or ingesting chicken cooked in NyQuil have injured young people and even led to fatalities.

“That’s where the danger lies, in immature children combined against very powerful algorithms and the desire to be liked and accepted,” said Titania Jordan, chief parent officer of Bark Technologies, an app that gives parents control over their kids’ internet activities.

The latest trend is the so-called NyQuil chicken challenge, which has people filming themselves cooking chicken soaked in the over-the-counter cold and flu medication and then eating it. The bizarre stunt appears to have originated on the website 4Chan in 2017 and made its rounds earlier this year. The FDA last week issued a warning to kids not to try this at home.

While there have been no reported injuries or deaths for the NyQuil chicken challenge as of yet, the same cannot be said of past stunts. The most deadly may have been the “blackout challenge,” which emerged in 2008 and became trendy again earlier this year. Also referred to as the “choking challenge” or the “pass-out challenge,” it encourages users to hold or otherwise cut off their breath until they pass out due to a lack of oxygen. It was linked to more than 80 deaths back when it first emerged, per the CDC, and more have died since it resurfaced last year on TikTok.

TikTok is being sued for wrongful death after three girls, from Texas, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, died trying to re-create the choking challenge.

 

The platform says it investigates any report about “dangerous or harmful challenges circulating online.”

The psychosocial components of what compels an impressionable youth to try such practices has parents and others stymied, Jordan told the Daily News.

“TikTok is a huge part of teen and tween culture and includes everything from fashion and sports to music and memes,” Jordan said. “And unfortunately the challenges that are harmful to human life can take off just as virally as some of the more fun or benign challenges.”

A teen “might want to hop on the train of going viral,” she explained.

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