Let’s face it in a world dominated by social media, everyone wants their 30 seconds of fame. Whether the digital currency is likes, shares, retweets or comments; there is a great deal of social capital that is conferred on those whose content goal viral. Combine this with the still developing brain of children and the associated peer pressure, this desire for internet popularity can go terribly wrong. This is especially magnified given the tremendous reach of the internet and the possibility of being seen by millions of ‘fans’ across the globe. So, how do we protect our children from the dangers of social media challenges while not inhibiting their ability to develop their unique identify in the modern technologically-advanced world? Below are 5 tips that we recommend to keep your kids safe from dangerous viral social media challenges.
1. Educate yourself on the latest challenges
One of the best way to say educated on the latest challenges is to either use YouTube or Google to search for these videos before they become popular with your kids.
You can even use Google to search YouTube with the following command:
site: YouTube ‘video challenge’
This will allow you to see which challenges are harmful and which ones have the potential to do great harm to your kids.
For example, there is the Tide Pods Challenge, the Boiling Water Challenge, the Cinnamon Challenge & the Ghost Pepper / Carolina Reaper Challenge. These all fall into the category of being extremely dangerous to your kid.
On the other hand, there is the Mannequin Challenge, Whisper Challenge and the Karaoke Challenge. These are fun ways that people have come up with to go viral on social media. However, it is entirely likely that you haven’t heard about the last 3 challenges because no one has seriously injured themselves while videotaping themselves doing these activities.
2. Educate your child about the dangers of these challenges
Since kids are naturally curious and interested in pushing the limits of reasonable behavior, one of the best strategies once you’ve educated yourself on the potential harmful viral video challenges is to educate your kids about them.
On the one hand, it is entirely possible that someone has created an illusion of being able to perform the challenge. Given the advances in video editing technology, it is entirely possible that if someone shows themselves eating a Ghost Pepper or swallowing a spoonful of cinnamon that they may not have performed the challenge at all.
So, your child may be attempting to replicate a challenge which has not basis in reality.
If the challenge is intended to be comedic in effect, like pouring boiling water on your friend to see their response. It is more likely that they or themselves could be severely harmed by this action.
For example, there are several children who have been injured by the gasoline fire challenge
. In this challenge, people videotape themselves being doused in gasoline or rubbing alcohol and then lighting themselves on fire. As you can imagine the potential for injury and death in highly elevated for a challenge such as this.
Even for a challenge like the cinnamon challenge which may appear innocuous can cause respiratory issues especially for those who have a pre-existing condition such as asthma. The inability to catch your breathe after repeatedly coughing because the particulate matter has entered your lungs is very dangerous.
3. Encourage participation in viral challenges that are for a good cause
While there are many viral video challenges that can have harmful effects, there are also those that are attended for good. For example, the Ice Bucket Challenge was designed to raise money for ALS.
In fact, the Ice Bucket Challenge successfully raised $115 million to help fight this disease
. Challenges like this should not only be supported but encouraged as this takes the focus off of the individual performing the activity and re-directs that energy towards others who can potentially benefit from increased funding and knowledge of the disease.
Another great challenge that older kids can take part of is Movember. This is designed to create awareness for prostate cancer. In this challenge, a mustache is grown through the entire month of November and photos are taken throughout the month so the hilarity that ensues from overgrown moustaches.
In addition to the charity motivations, there are also opportunities to use their creativity to create viral videos for established contests. Americas Funniest Videos has several different contest prompts that kids can participate in to demonstrate their video production talents.
Whether it is Water Bottle Flipping or Basketball Trick shots, or pet puppets, there are many ways to redirect their desire to go viral with established contests that are safe.
One of the best parts of Americas Funniest Videos is that there is also the potential to win cash prizes if their video progresses through several different rounds.
5. Create their own viral brand
Whether a relatively safe or potential harmful, one of the biggest challenges with these viral video challenges is the relatively short duration of their popularity. However, if you can discuss with your children the very real possibility that they can develop a following over time for the right reasons, it can be far more beneficial.
By setting up their own podcast / YouTube channel, they can conduct an experiment on video content that is initially popular among their group of friends and begin to expand that outward. From writing the right headlines, to figuring out content duration and production; kids can have a lot of fun making content that is not only safe but a lot more sustainable.
There is also an emerging group of stars who are leveraging video content to generate substantial income for themselves. In some instance, there are live-streaming playing the most popular video games using a platform like Twitch. Or, they are participating in contests sponsored by game manufacturers which offer substantial cash prizes.
There is also an emerging movement to create e-sports at the high school level
. Our hypothesis is that this will continue to expand to middle school and potentially elementary. At its essence video games are part of a growing trend towards brain sports
with the first use case being e-sports. However, the broader trend will include coding & robotics competitions, hack-a-thons and video production contests.
Those who get involved early will learn best how to be successful within the construct of this emerging trend.
For the entirety of human history, both adults and children have sought fame and fortune by pushing the boundaries of what can be considered safe. As we reach the natural limit of things that have been attempted to before, there is the challenge of finding something new and different to get a reaction from friends and strangers alike. With the above tips, we can proactively take steps to ensure that our children are educated about the dangers of taking part in these viral video challenges.