Teenagers can be unpredictable — and having instant access to a constant stream of (mis)information on the Internet certainly doesn’t help. The latest teen to make headlines for an Internet challenge gone wrong barely survived the “duct tape challenge” — 48 stitches and a crushed eye socket later.
Here’s the thing: Teenagers are just a few years away from being adults, according to the law. But developmentally they’re not quite there yet. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, the area of the brain responsible for reasoning and thinking, the frontal cortex, continues to change and mature throughout the teenage years and into adulthood.
As a result, we have teens who land themselves in dangerous and often life-threatening situations because they don’t yet have the experience or critical thinking skills to tell them that something they see on the Internet is a bad idea. Parents of teens, there are a few alarming Internet trends to watch out for:
10 Terrible teen trends on social media
1. Duct tape challenge
Let’s start with one of the most recent and work our way backward. Just days ago, a 14-year-old boy in Washington was seriously injured by playing a popular teen game known as the duct tape challenge. Skylar Fish and his friends had tried the challenge before after seeing it trending on YouTube, which normally involves duct-taping the participant to a pole so they have to break free. This time, Fish was duct-taped standing up.
Fish was injured when he tried to break out of his duct tape, causing him to fall and hit his head on a window frame and the concrete. The teen was left with a crushed eye socket that caused a brain aneurysm, as well as 48 stitches in his head. Fish says he’s lucky to be alive.
2. Cinnamon challenge
The cinnamon challenge is another teen fixation that has been circulating on YouTube for more than five years. Doctors have warned against this dangerous practice that requires someone to swallow a spoonful of cinnamon in 60 seconds without taking a drink of water. Physicians explain in their 2013 Pediatrics report that because cinnamon is caustic, the challenge can cause throat and respiratory issues, including choking and a potential collapsed lung.
We saw the saddest side effect of this primarily teen challenge in 2015, when a 4-year-old boy choked to death after ingesting almost an entire container of powdered cinnamon.
3. Choking game
Millennial parents might remember the choking game from the ‘80s and ‘90s, but the infiltration of Facebook has caused it to spread again like wildfire. The game uses limited strangulation to reduce oxygen to the brain, causing the participant to faint. In 2014, the choking game became a bonafide social media craze among teens, with hashtags like #thechokinggame and #passoutchallenge circulating.
Sadly, this newly revived social media challenge has also resulted in a number of deaths, spurring the release of a Lifetime movie to bring awareness to the cause.
4. Car surfing
Just when you think that most teens have common sense, we see yet another Internet trend that seems almost too ridiculous to be true. But it is — car surfing, where a passenger “surfs” on the roof, hood or bumper of a vehicle, is dangerous enough that it has taken multiple teen lives. In 2015, a 16-year-old Michigan girl died in the parking lot of her work after jumping on a moving car and falling off the vehicle.
5. Salt and ice
How dangerous can two simple items everyone has in their home really be? The answer is, very dangerous, actually. Teens are participating in the salt and ice challenge, requiring only a handful of salt and a few ice cubes to play. To complete the challenge, the participant must pour salt in their hand, add some ice cubes and see how long they can hold the salt and ice together in a closed fist. Some versions of the challenge require friends to hold the salt and ice mixture against the participant’s skin. Whoever can hold the salt and ice the longest — and endure the most pain — “wins.”
Teens are giving themselves second- and third-degree burns with this dangerous game. Google “salt and ice” to see just how damaging the results can be. (And be prepared for some graphic images.)
6. Butt chugging/eyeballing
If the name “butt chugging” scares you, wait until you read more about this teen trend. Instead of drinking alcohol, some teens are ingesting their alcohol through their rectums. Think along the lines of an enema — but with booze and for no reason other than to become intoxicated. Butt chugging is extremely dangerous. It can cause severe alcohol poisoning, tissue damage and death. In 2012, a University of Tennessee student was hospitalized after a butt chugging incident left him with severe alcohol poisoning.
Eyeballing is an equally disturbing teen trend that involves taking a shot of hard liquor — in one’s eye socket. Eyeballing can cause irritation, swelling, cornea scarring and blindness. And just in case you haven’t heard of this, some teen girls are soaking tampons in vodka and other hard alcohol and inserting them in the same manner they would a regular tampon.
Some teens think rules were made for breaking, and they’ve gotten very creative about how they break those rules. Many states prohibit teens under the age of 18 who have either a learner’s permit or a driver’s license from transporting other teens. Some states call it a graduated driver’s licensing program or something similar. Back when we were teens, once we had a license at 16, we could usually fill up our car with our friends — assuming our parents were OK with it — and hit the road. But today, that’s not the case in many states. To get around it, some teens are having their friends ride in the trunks of their cars.
Additionally, teens sometimes do this when they have no additional room for passengers in the actual car. Trunking is dangerous for obvious reasons — mainly, in the event of a car accident, the riders in the trunk can be injured or killed.
8. Vampire biting
Some teens are taking the Twilight saga a little too far and are showing their commitment in a very unusual — and unsafe — way: with “love” bites. Yes, this dangerous teen trend is exactly what it sounds like. Teens are biting each other in what can only be described as a modern-day hickey. Teens who do this are apparently looking for a way to feel closer to their boyfriend or girlfriend.
The risks: HIV, hepatitis and infection at the bite site.
Any teenage game that has the word “roulette” in it can’t be good. Just a few years ago, ChatRoulette was trending, and teenagers were participating in the anonymous online chatroom that reveals a random person on the other side of the webcam. The danger in this so-called game of roulette is that a teenager could easily be exposed to a predator or nudity. Teenagers could also reveal personal information to chatters that might put them in danger.
ChatRoulette, compared to random Skyping, was considered one of the most dangerous teen fads in 2012, since it put teenagers in direct contact with total strangers 24 hours a day. It may not be as popular anymore among teens, but ChatRoulette.com is still a real online threat that exists today — and even worse, teens have taken a lot of their roulette chatting over to Skype.
10. Condom snorting
Generally parents would want their teens to use condoms versus remain unprotected, but in this case, we’re not talking about utilizing condoms for sexual activity. If your teen takes the condom challenge, he’s going to snort a condom through his nose and pull it out of his mouth. Yes, really. It’s hard to imagine how one wins this condom snorting challenge, other than not choking to death.