Are you worried that bizarre and dangerous online challenges will lure your teenager into indulging in risky behaviour and self-harm? Fear not. Here’s how you can protect him
By Aruna Raghuram
Challenge #1: Eat a tablespoon of cinnamon in 60 seconds without water.
Result: Vomiting, choking, gagging
Challenge#2: Intentionally cut off oxygen via strangulation until passed out.
Result: Brain damage, death
Challenge#3: Put salt and ice together on the skin and feel the burning sensation.
Result: Second-degree burns, scarring, nerve damage
These are just some of the dangerous dares and challenges that have gone viral on social media in recent times. The Blue Whale Challenge is probably the scariest as it has reportedly led to over 130 suicides. Another disturbing new social media dare is the 48-hour challenge that encourages children to go missing for two full days.
Parents are trying hard to understand the reasons behind the recklessness of their wards. Children are particularly susceptible to peer pressure and FOMO (fear of missing out). It may be the thrill that motivates them, the wish to be socially accepted by peers or the 30 seconds of fame – since videos of the dares are usually posted on social media. Also, one-upmanship is a central part of the online behaviour of teens.
Experts feel that if your child is thinking of taking up a dangerous dare, it could be indicative of low self-esteem, poor decision-making skills or a lack of insight into the consequences of the challenge.When they see other teens in the video getting a lot of laughter and attention, they think it could be fun. They may also want to win praise from friends and be called biggest risk-taker or the most outgoing member of their friend circle.
Laurence Steinberg, a professor of psychology at Temple University in the US, has a scientific explanation. He says the teen brain is driven to seek constant stimuli and reward, as it is flooded with dopamine. This, combined with a still slow to mature self-regulation system leads to risky behaviour.
Talking to your teen about internet safety and peer pressure is not easy. But, it is an important conversation to have, to protect your kids from harming themselves, others or their reputations.
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