These are just a handful of the social media challenges that have gone viral in the recent years. Social Media challenges come and go quickly and there have been too many to count. Some of these “challenges” are dangerous and seriously stupid, sometimes fatal. Others are simply silly, completely harmless and meant to spread joy and laughter. Overwhelmingly, the age group attempting these challenges and posting them without a second thought are teenagers. The most recent that’s been all over the news and social media is the #BirdBox Challenge based off of a hit Netflix movie starring Sandra Bullock. In the movie, all the characters wear blindfolds throughout the entire film. Social media blew up in the following weeks with videos of mostly young people, posting videos of themselves doing various tasks and activities while blindfolded. Netflix actually issued a statement requesting that people please stop doing the challenge for fear that someone might get seriously injured.
Newsweek came out with an article recently that helps explain why teens are so drawn to social media challenges:
“The teen brain is compelled to seek out new experiences that help the brain learn, but teens don’t yet have the tools to make rational choices. That’s why accidents, drug use, unprotected sex and other risky behaviors are much more common in young people, some experts say. According the National Institutes of Health, accidental deaths increase dramatically during early and late adolescence. Death by injury occurs at rates six times higher among teens 15 to 19, compared with those 10 to 14.
Meanwhile, something else is also occurring around this time that makes young people more likely to get into trouble: puberty. As the body gears up for the changes that come with sexual maturity, it ramps up production of hormones—including dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter that increases when the brain’s reward system is triggered. Whether the reward is food, sex, money, drugs, retweets, followers or Instagram likes, dopamine functions pretty much the same way. The biological need to feel good compels a person to behave in a way that will provide stimulus and reward. Research has shown that in order for the brain to commit something to memory, dopamine must be present, which essentially means it is needed for the brain to process important information such as don’t light yourself on fire or you might get burned.”
As rational adults, we can see the obvious downsides: the danger, the physical harm, the possible public humiliation, the public record the internet. But, for centuries, risk-taking behavior has been appealing to teens because of their immature brain matter and puberty. Nowadays, the internet is just advertising these bad ideas as “fun” and encouraging others to participate.
If a group of teens is sitting around with nothing to do, a virtual list of bad of ideas are a just a click away and the pay off is 30 seconds of internet fame. But, there are many horror stories connected to these social media challenges. A simple google search will show you the outcome of poor decisions that were made by very young people.
Project B3 wants you to have the conversations you don’t think you need to have with your child. Even if you know 100% that your teen is too intelligent to ever eat a Tide Pod, still talk to them about never, ever eating a Tide Pod and posting a video of it on the internet. If you know your preteen is too smart to ride on top of a car while someone else is driving and someone is recording it on their iPhone, tell them to never, ever do it.
Also, tell them that if any of their friends are ever hurt or need help after doing something risky or dangerous, to always call 9-1-1. Reassure them that they will not get in “trouble” for what they’ve done.
Tell them to Be Safe, Be Smart. And that they will never be punished for doing the right thing.