TikTok is not inherently dangerous. But like many social media platforms, it gives people, especially teens, an audience anytime, anywhere, and with anyone. It also offers young people constant emotional feedback and validation through short videos and instant gratification through clicks.
The prevalence of challenges on TikTok, especially during and after COVID-19, has raised concerns among parents and caregivers. Some trends may be fun, but others are downright dangerous, if not sadistic.
7 most dangerous trends and challenges on TikTok
1. Borg challenge
This challenge involves taking alcohol, caffeinated flavoring, electrolytes, and water in one go. Ideally, the other elements are supposed to slow the effects of alcohol, increase your alcohol intake, and reduce the impact of hangovers the following day.
In reality, this challenge led to the hospitalization of about 30 students from the University of Massachusetts Amherst because of drinking too much.
2. Blackout challenge
The blackout challenge involves choking yourself to the point of unconsciousness before stopping. If things go wrong, this may lead to death or brain damage if the brain is starved of oxygen. The blackout trend was around long before TikTok became a thing. Still, the popularity of TikTok has made it more widely known to children worldwide.
It led to the death of Antonella, a 10-year-old girl, and Joshua Haileyesus, who was only 12.
3. Silhouette challenge
In this challenge, a person, especially a girl, poses provocatively or dances with a red-lit background. This creates a mysterious shadow or silhouette to seduce or show body shapes and outlines.
But some tech-savvy people have found a way to get clear images of girls and leaked them for the world to see. Such exposure may affect some people’s self-esteem or lead to bullying.
4. Tooth filing challenge
Here, users file their teeth live. Dentists and dental experts have said filing your teeth can spoil your enamel and lead to more significant dental problems. They are against these kinds of body modifications.
5. Orbeez shooting challenges
This challenge encourages people to shoot fire gel pellets at strangers using toy guns. The pellets may be soft, but not every stranger will understand such a fad or be in on the joke.
For instance, two brothers are accused of stomping teen Ethan Liming to death after he shot them with a water pellet gun.
6. One-chip challenge
You’ve probably heard of this challenge, where people are challenged to eat one extra-spicy chip. It may be amusing to some viewers, but a few months ago, 7-year-old Kyuonn and his sister, 5-year old, Aarhiya were admitted after trying the one-chip challenge.
Also, more recently, 14-year-old Harris Wobolah passed away after trying the one-chip challenge.
7. Slap-a-teacher challenge
Another disheartening challenge is the slap-a-teacher challenge that’s been doing rounds on social media. In this “challenge,” teenagers and other young adults film themselves assaulting their teachers for clicks and online validation. Several young adults face assault charges, and some have been hurt in retaliation because of this challenge.
What makes TikTok challenges appealing to teens and tweens
These dangerous trends are appealing because teens are typically drawn to risky or potentially hazardous situations. As mentioned, TikTok and other social media platforms give people online validation, low entry barriers, the joy of being part of something “new and big,” and the illusion of fame.
Also, with challenges, you don’t have to come up with anything original. You do your version of the latest trend, lipsync, prank, or dance moves. Unfortunately, we’ve seen young adults such as a British “prankster” called “Mizzy” go overboard with these “pranks” and challenges.
How to protect your child from dangerous online trends
Trends come and go, but one mishap can have disastrous consequences in your child’s life. It’s advisable to have honest conversations about the dangers of some online trends and how they can protect themselves when pressured.
However, don’t try to curb your teen’s online because studies have shown they always find a way around it, and you won’t know what’s happening. Here are some online safety tips.
Don’t be subjective
While it’s not advisable to be too controlling, it’s also not recommended to be too lax. Some parents may think their child is wise and won’t do these challenges. But remember, young people are not yet fully developed, and these trends are captivating.
Take part in your child’s online activities
This is yet another tricky strategy to balance. If you become overbearing, your child will shut up about their likes and dislikes online, but if you give them free rein, you won’t know what’s happening.
That said, you can find out the content that your child loves and why. Strengthen your bond with them so they can come to you should they feel comfortable approaching you if they need help.
Find a protective tool
Before you install a safety and protection tool, explain to your children why you need to do it. As mentioned, if they know you’re monitoring them or reading the text messages, they will find a way around it and distance themselves from you.
So explain to them about the impact gore, pornography, and other inappropriate content can have on their lives.
Help your child develop digital skills
Teach your child about empathy and emotional intelligence when online. If you’re tech-savvy, you can also show them how to protect their privacy and maintain online safety.
Use TikTok responsibly
If you are a TikTok user yourself, try to use it responsibly. Avoid harmful content or doing dangerous things for likes, clicks, and validation. Online sharenting has its advantages, but it has also eroded natural parenting.
Be a safe space for your children
Whether inserting coins into outlets, drinking detergents, or licking toilet seats, online challenges can harm your child. It’s essential to help your child understand the downsides of peer pressure, the instances where things went wrong, and how it affected parents, and encourage them to take some time and soul-searching before posting.
Above all, your children need to trust you and be able to approach you without fear should something go wrong. They should be able to show you videos that make them frightened, confused, or concerned without feeling guilty or ashamed.