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Social media challenges gaining popularity, posing harm to Oklahoma kids

Posted at 10:22 AM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 07:51:00-04

TULSA, Okla. — Popular trends on social media could be life-threatening, and parents need to be on alert.

Challenges like:

  • Blackout challenge where kids experience euphoria
  • Cinnamon challenge which can cause scarring and inflammation
  • Benadryl challenge which can cause seizures, psychosis and even a coma

These are decades-old challenges recycling in popularity. This time, they’re spring boarding off social media and reaching more kids than ever.

Dr. Britta Ostermeyer, a professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, said kids are drawn to these challenges.

"When there is liking and wanting to be in the spotlight and fame, and then one now has the tool to broadcast that, which is social media, which didn't have years ago, then this combination makes it possible that some of our teens do these incredibly dangerous daring games,” Ostermeyer said.

The danger of these challenges hides under a mask of what kids consider to be "fun,” because the "trend" is deemed popular.

Unfortunately, experts said kids usually don't know any better and seek validation in the form of likes and viewership. Ostermeyer said 92 percent of teenagers are online every day.

"We have to explain the consequences that they cannot properly see,” she said.

This summer a tragic death reported out of Bethany, Oklahoma after a young boy participated in what officials believe to be the "blackout" challenge posted on TikTok. He was found with ligature marks around his neck. His death is not the first of its kind this year.

In June, an eighth-grader in Massachusetts died after attempting the “blackout challenge.” In April, a 12-year-old boy in Colorado died. The CDC reports this challenge has been around for over two decades and data shows 82 juveniles died between 1995 and 2007 after taking part in the game.

Other challenges, such as the “tide pod” or “cinnamon” challenge can cause serious illness or lung damage by consumption, while the “salt and ice” or “outlet challenge” can cause physical harm.

These so-called "trends" are prompting first responders to warn parents as they again gain popularity.

"We hope that people will talk to their kids and let them know how dangerous this stuff can be, and it's not worth a like,” Andy Little with the Tulsa Fire Department said.

First responders see the tragedies of these online "challenges" going wrong firsthand.

Little is not only speaking out as a public information officer with TFD, but also as a father.

"It scares me to death,” he said. “I have two children myself and you do your best to talk with them. But children up to the age of 25, their brain is not fully developed, so they tend to weigh reward higher than risk, which can be very dangerous.”

Here's what experts suggest you do as a parent to prevent your child from trying these challenges:

  • Add them as a friend on all of their social media platforms, even their alternative accounts if you can.
  • Watch what type of content they post and keep your line of communication open.
  • Ask them about school, their friends, and social media trends.
  • Set a good example of what "healthy" screen time looks like and try to make it a family affair.

Ostermeyer said it’s important to not show judgment toward your child. She said building trust is very important and could make all the difference.

WATCH the full story on 2 News Oklahoma THURSDAY at 6 a.m.

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