5 Dangerous Challenges That Went Viral on Social Media

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Most responsible parents monitor their teen’s and tween’s social media usage. They warn them of the dangers of predators, sexting, cyber bullying, etc. Yet parents often overlook a surprising threat in so-called “challenges.” Take the “Tide Pod Challenge.” Never heard of it? It’s a bizarre teen fad in which teens take those colorful detergent packets, eat them and then post their reaction online. And don’t say, “Who would be crazy enough to do that?” Young people, that’s who. It’s not like this type of behavior started with the birth of the Internet; in late 1939, the craze among some college students involved swallowing live goldfish. But the advent of social media has provided fertile ground for some dangerous trends in recent years.


5. Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge

Dermatologists warn the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge could lead to scarring and permanent disfigurement.

This challenge went viral in 2015. Hoping to emulate the reality star’s full lips, teens and tweens would stick their lips in a bottle or glass and then suck in; the strong suction often resulted in swollen, bruised and puffy lips. Dermatologists warned about the dangers of scarring and disfigurement. Luckily this fad seemed to die out almost as soon as it arose.


4. Choking Game

The Choking Game can have deadly consequences.

This is a game where teens either choke themselves, or a friend, to induce a temporary euphoria and possibly a loss of consciousness. This can sometimes lead to brain damage, or death. The game has been around for many years, possibly dating to the 1960s. The Centers For Disease Control estimated that between 1995 and 2007, 82 U.S. youths ages 6-19 died playing the game. Officials say an untold number of other deaths are wrongly attributed to suicide. The rise of social media in recent years has made it easier for kids to learn about this game, and more tempted to share their experiences online.


3. Cinnamon Challenge

The Cinnamon Challenge poses the risk of choking, lung infections and inflammation. © The Delicious Life

This fad still has legs, despite being around on the Internet since the turn of the century. It involves swallowing a spoonful of cinnamon without water, and (of course) posting the episode on social media. Choking is a danger, and if the cinnamon is inhaled it can cause inflammation, scarring and even a collapsed lung. In recent years the challenge has led to hundreds of calls to poison control centers and teens being hospitalized.


2. Fire Challenge

Lighting yourself on fire is always a terrible idea. © Federico Donatini/Dreamstime.com

It should go without saying that dousing your body in a flammable liquid and lighting yourself on fire is a terrible idea. But this really did become a viral trend in 2014. Alarming headlines detailed the disturbing results: “Boy, 11, released from hospital after playing ’fire challenge.’” “Teen severely burned in online ‘fire challenge.’” It’s hard to say, but those dire news reports, which inspired public safety warnings, might have contributed to the short-lived nature of this dangerous trend. One Indianapolis-area fire chief learned of the challenge on his own Facebook timeline and sounded the alarm. Capt. John Mehling told WISH TV in Indianapolis he couldn’t believe the challenge was real. “I was shocked. I could not believe that kids were doing such a stupid stunt,” Mehling said. “It’s crazy. I don’t think these are stupid kids. I think they’re kids who don’t have the experience to know that when they do something like this there are consequences to it.”


1. Tide Pod Challenge

Poison control officials warn that eating laundry detergent can lead to “seizures, pulmonary edema, respiratory arrest, coma, and even death.” © Mike Mozart

This trend emerged online in 2017, with young people eating the colorful plastic detergent packets and posting the results on Instagram. Some even went so far as to concoct recipes for the packets. This might be funny for kids, but it’s no joke for health professionals. The American Association of Poison Control Centers says risks of eating detergent include “seizures, pulmonary edema, respiratory arrest, coma, and even death.”

The challenge immediately drew the attention of executives at Proctor & Gamble, which manufactures Tide. In early January the company created a public service video featuring New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski, who says “What the heck is going on, people? Use Tide Pods for washing, not eating. Do not eat.” Yet through the first four weeks of 2018, U.S. poison control centers had received 118 calls about laundry detergent exposure involving youths ages 13-19.


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