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Cautionary Tales On Social Media Challenges

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Social media challenges are very trendy and popular, especially with teenagers. A challenge generally involves a user doing a task on video, posting it, and encouraging or daring others to do it too. Even though some challenges are easy, fun, and often silly, there’s usually an element of risk; other challenges are extremely dangerous and may even lead to death.  Here are some recent stories on hazardous social media challenges that have cost the lives of children.  These stories are difficult to learn about; however, it’s vital for parents to educate themselves on these dangers so they can protect their children.


A 13-year-old Australian girl died in April after trying a social media trend called chroming. This involves inhaling toxic substances such as metallic paints, solvents, petrol, and chemicals from aerosol cans for a quick high.  Esra Haynes pursued the challenge at a sleepover by inhaling from a deodorant can.  Haynes went into cardiac arrest and was on life support for eight days when doctors concluded her brain was beyond repair.  Her family then made the heartbreaking decision to turn off the life support machines. Two other teenagers died, and another one suffered brain damage from participating in the same challenge in Australia alone since 2019.  Reports of chroming first popped up in 2009, and the trend has reemerged again recently on TikTok.

The Benadryl Challenge

A 13-year-old Ohio boy died in April after participating in a similar trend on TikTok called the Benadryl challenge. This challenge involves popping Benadryl pills to induce hallucinations and goes back to 2020.  Jacob Stevens ingested 12 to 14 pills of the over-the-counter antihistamine as his friends filmed him. Stevens began suffering seizures and found himself hospitalized.  He was on a ventilator for days before passing away.  Other children have died from doing this same challenge including a 15-year-old girl from Oklahoma who passed away in 2020.

The Blackout Challenge

A 16-year-old girl in France died in May after attempting a variation of the Blackout challenge that reportedly went viral as the scarf game. Christy Gassaille died at home attempting the stunt which involves tying a scarf around the neck to asphyxiate oneself until passing out. The Blackout challenge has been one of the most dangerous and deadly challenges to hit TikTok. It’s also been known as the “choking challenge,” or the pass-out challenge where users are encouraged to hold their breath until they pass out. This challenge first emerged in 2008 and the CDC linked it to the deaths of 82 children, at that time. A form of this challenge has made the rounds again starting in 2021 and over a dozen more deaths have been linked to it since.

Here are other dangerous, yet popular social media challenges parents need to be aware of.

  • The ice and salt challenge: This entails pouring salt on your skin and placing ice on top to see how long you can stand the burning sensation it causes. This can cause second- and third-degree injuries similar to frostbite, or sores and leave permanent scars.
  • The fire challenge: This involves dousing a body part with a flammable liquid and lighting it on fire. This challenge has caused multiple deaths and can leave permanent scars and injuries.
  • The Tide Pod challenge: This challenge involves users eating Tide Pods.  The laundry detergent has toxic chemicals that can kill you.
  • The milk crate challenge: This challenge involves stacking milk crates and balancing on them.  This challenge can lead to scrapes, cuts, bruises, broken bones and possibly head trauma.

The best way to protect your children from these challenges is by keeping them off social media.  If your children are on social media, educate them on the dangers of challenges like these and forbid them from participating in any of them.  It’s important to keep an open dialogue with your child on all the risks social media presents to them and to closely monitor their usage.

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