Neptune Navigate Blog

Tips for online safety, security, and responsible digital citizenship for parents, kids, and families.

How to Protect Your Kids from Dangerous Social Media Challenges

March 15, 2021

The Outlet Challenge” ,“The Salt and Ice Challenge” and the “Tide Pod Challenge”. These are just a few of the many social media “”challenges”” you may have heard about. Thankfully we’re smart enough not to try any of this…after all, we’ve had our own “challenges” in the past right? 

Well, for our kids, it’s a lot different. If you have teenagers, you probably know all about the social media “influencers” that feature makeup tutorials, travel blogs, sports, etc. which tend to be pretty innocent.  However, there are people on social media that are recording very dangerous stunts resulting in injury and death. Consider a 13 year old watching these challenges online, seeing people walk away unscathed, or never witnessing the aftermath. 

Take for example the viral TikTok “Benadryl Challenge” that encouraged followers to take multiple doses of Benadryl to experience hallucinations. Just last year, Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas reported  that one teenager died from an overdose because of the Benadryl Challenge, and there were three hospitalizations related to other social media challenges.

So, why are our kids so susceptible to this type of behavior?  Research has shown that the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which handles rational thought, is not fully developed until a person is in their mid 20’s. Our kids are impulsive, easily influenced and often do things before considering the consequences of their actions. Social media rewards extreme behavior with likes and followers, “When the likes and comments come in, it triggers a dopamine spike, and a serotonin spike,” says therapist Mike Rosenfeld.  Kids are taking more risks and literally endangering themselves and others.

So, how can you protect your child from being lured into engaging in this type of behavior? First of all, educate yourself. Be aware of the social media trends that are out there and what your kids are watching online. Have open communication about what videos your kids are watching. Discuss the potential consequences of radical online behavior such as “Where do you think this could go wrong?  What do you think happened to that person after the video?  Let’s find out what happens when you….(put ice and salt on your skin, drink boiling water, etc). 

Our kids can be easily influenced and make poor decisions especially when it comes to the allure of social media popularity. They need to think beyond the “likes” and followers and you are the best person to help them do that.