Photo Credit: shutterstock
In case you haven’t noticed, social media has become a hotbed for dangerous new viral trends. And that has definitely raised the risk profile of letting your kids use social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram where many of these challenges spawn. For example, on TikTok right now, one unsafe trend that has caught on is cooking a chicken in NyQuil and then eating it. And there have been plenty of unsafe trends before that. Remember the “I bet you can’t eat a Tide Pod” challenge from a few years ago?
Why social media trends need to be monitored By parents
Parents take note, the safety of your kids is in your hands. It might be impossible to eliminate viral social media challenges, but it’s not impossible to limit the risk these challenges pose to young minors. At the very least, you need to sit down with your kids and explain how to resist peer pressure from their friends. After all, that’s the reason why many of these viral social media challenges spread: it all comes down to peer pressure and the need to fit in.
Back in the days before social media, young teens had the same types of challenges, but weren’t asked to document their deeds with their phones. Usually, these challenges were embarrassing but not particularly dangerous, more along the lines of, “I bet you can’t run around the block without wearing a shirt” or “I bet you can’t call up the cute girl in your neighborhood and tell her how much you like her.” Sometimes, you might have had to prove your courage by jumping into a lake or performing some kind of stunt with your dirt bike, but it certainly never involved ingesting dangerous toxins or chemicals and boasting about it online.
Common sense advice from parents
So it’s not really asking parents to do too much by simply asking them to talk with their kids. According to government watchdog agencies such as the FDA, one simple thing you can tell your kids is that over-the-counter (OTC) drugs like NyQuil can pose significant risks if not used properly. Most adults probably realize that using NyQuil as a marinade for chicken probably isn’t going to work out well. But, apparently, many kids do not.
Kids may need the extra step of being told to read the labels on any medication, and to avoid changing the recommended dosages of any drug. For example, one recent social media challenge was to take large doses of Benadryl in order to induce hallucinations. The only problem is that dramatically ratcheting up the dosage of Benadryl can also cause your body to go into shock. In a worst-case scenario, it can also cause death.
Do social media companies also have a role to play?
But let’s not put the entire burden on parents. Social media companies also have a role to play here. TikTok, for example, can’t enable a dangerous viral trend to gain momentum. The same is true for Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube or any other social media platform. If Facebook has the resources to limit political misinformation, shouldn’t it also have the resources to limit real misinformation? Kids being told they can consume a chicken that has been soaked in NyQuil is surely a form of misinformation.
In the best of all worlds, both parents and social media companies can work together to limit the risk to our kids. Social media companies can work to reduce the “supply” of harmful content, while parents can work to reduce the “demand” for harmful content. Together, it might just be enough to avoid any unfortunate casualties or deaths from out-of-control viral social media challenges.