Beware of Dangerous Social Media Challenges! 

Beware of Dangerous Social Media Challenges! 

Lisa Johnson

New social media challenges pop up daily. Many of them are fun, harmless, and some even raise money for worthy causes. There are, however, lots of dangerous and potentially harmful challenges spreading on TikTok and other social media platforms. Some of these challenges involve illegal activities such as theft, assault, and destruction of property and others may cause physical or emotional harm.  

Powerful algorithms combined with the satisfying social rewards reaped through views, likes and comments make these challenges uber tempting for impulsive teenagers and young adults. It’s like peer pressure on steroids. Challenges such as eating Tide detergent pods, holding their breath until they pass out or ingesting chicken cooked in NyQuil have led to serious injuries and even fatalities. Other challenges such as stealing cars, stealing or destruction of school property and “slap a teacher” are leading to criminal charges. 

“Social media rewards outrageous behavior, and the more outrageous, the bigger the bragging rights,” the American Academy of Pediatrics said on its website. “It’s a quick-moving, impulsive environment, and the fear of losing out is real for teens. That environment plays into a teen’s underdeveloped ability to think through their actions and possible consequences.”  

Recently, the FDA warned against all potentially dangerous social media challenges, especially those involving medicines. They cited earlier challenges, including the Benadryl challenge where participants film themselves consuming large doses of the over-the-counter medication and the effects of the resulting hallucinations. They also cited the more recent “sleepy chicken challenge,” where people film themselves cooking and eating chicken soaked in NyQuil.  

The deadliest so far is the “blackout challenge,” which began in 2008 and became trendy again earlier this year. It challenges people to hold or otherwise cut off their breath until they pass out due to a lack of oxygen. It was linked to more than 80 deaths back when it first emerged and more have died since it resurfaced last year on TikTok. 

What should parents to do to keep their teens from participating in these dangerous challenges? 

It’s not easy being a parent in the digital age. But, with proactive education and open lines of communication, you can help prevent dangerous outcomes. Here are some guidelines: 

  1. Be Informed – Keep informed of the viral challenges trending on social media. See the list below for some of the dangerous challenges currently trending and follow Smart Gen Society on Facebook and Instagram. We will post with new trending challenges to look out for. 
  2. Be Open and Approachable – Have frequent, open and judgement-free discussions with your teen. Really listen, ask questions, and offer support so they are comfortable discussing it when these challenges arise. 
  3. Be Aware of the Pressures – The peer pressure that teens may feel to do these challenges is real. Acknowledge and show empathy for what they are experiencing. 
  4. Be Frank About the Consequences -Discuss any trending challenges in detail and get specific about the dangerous consequences. 
  5. Smart Gen Society Can Help – We have digital experts and trained mediators that can help if your family is struggling with social media issues. We can help set parental controls on devices, help you create family digital plans and conduct social media audits and resets. For more information call 402-505-3993 or email

Social media challenges currently circulating online: 

Kia boyz challenge – This challenge encourages young people to steal vehicles while recording themselves driving recklessly, weaving in and out of traffic, and dodging other vehicles. The challenge takes advantage of a design flaw that makes it easy to hot wire certain models of Kia and Hyundai automobiles. This challenge can lead to criminal charges as well as injury or death. 

Devious lick challenge – This challenge dares students to record themselves stealing and destroying items in schools. The “lick,” a slang term for theft, often includes small items such as soap and hand sanitizer but can include more serious items like toilet seats, school signs and even fire alarms. Some schools have taken serious actions against students who have committed these crimes, including potential criminal charges and disciplinary consequences like suspension. 

The ice & salt challenge Participants in this challenge pour salt on their bodies, typically on an arm, and then place ice on the salt. The mixture of ice and salt create a burning sensation much like frost bite and participants vie to keep the ice on for the longest time. The salt and ice challenge can quickly cause second- and third-degree injuries as well as causing painful open sores to form on the skin. 

Blackout challenge – It’s known as the “blackout challenge” or “choking challenge” or “pass-out challenge” and entails cutting off one’s air supply either by holding the breath or tying something around your neck. This dangerous trend has caused over 80 deaths when it first started and has recently led to many more. 

Benadryl challenge – The “Benadryl challenge” encourages people to film themselves taking large doses of Benadryl to induce hallucinations. At least one death of a 15-year-old girl in Oklahoma, has been caused by this challenge. 

Sleepy chicken challenge – This challenge involves boiling chicken in NyQuil cold and flu medication and then eating it. In addition to be unappetizing, this can be very dangerous. Boiling a medication can make it much more concentrated and even inhaling the vapors can cause harm. 

Milk crate challenge – This challenge has people filming themselves climbing rickety pyramids made of plastic milk crates, with hopes of going viral when they hilariously fall down. The trouble is, people break bones, fall on their faces and get severe head injuries. 

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