BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Tide Pod Challenge first went viral on social media platforms in late 2017. The challenge asked young people to take detergent capsules to earn internet power. Now these kinds of social media challenges are more common and some of them are very dangerous.
Pediatric Emergency Medicine Dr. Alicia Webb has seen firsthand how dangerous some viral challenges can be.
“We’ve seen children who have had long-term consequences, brain damage and even death from these challenges,” Webb said.
She says the problem with social media challenges is that they rarely have any real impact. A challenge for which Dr. Webb has seen patients is the “blackout challenge,” where children deliberately starve themselves of oxygen.
“We’ve seen some bad results with bad consequences from that.”
At the height of the pandemic, the milk crate challenge became popular. People piled milk crates on top of each other to perform wild stunts. dr. Webb said she and her colleagues have treated broken bones, head injuries and back injuries through that challenge.
Then there’s the dry scoop challenge, where people eat a whole scoop of protein or energetic pre-workout powder.
“A very young person had a heart attack from taking so much energy substance. It was really, really dangerous, and that challenge can lead to heart rhythm problems,” Webb said.
The Tide Pod Challenge has even made a resurgence. “When those tide pods pop, they can cause burns to the mouth, face, and esophagus and can cause permanent complications.”
Webb has even treated children who have tried the Benadryl challenge, “where children are encouraged to take a bunch of Benadryl and then hallucinate. And that’s extremely dangerous,” Webb says.
Webb believes that because these challenges show something dangerous as fun and exciting, some kids naturally want to get involved. “It can be really easy when you’re sitting down scrolling through these social media sites to find videos, and you lose the sense that they’re actually dangerous,” Webb said.
The ages of children who participate in these dangerous challenges vary – starting at a very young age.
“Any kid who is on TikTok, or has access to these social media platforms, can show these videos through the algorithm of TikTok or Snapchat or Instagram. So we’ve seen young children, younger than you would expect, to be affected,” Webb said.
dr. Webb usually says that:† the parents of her young patients are shocked or completely unaware that these challenges even exist before they end up in the emergency room. But, she says, there will always be a new challenge — something new that will startle parents. According to Webb, it’s so important to talk to your kids about what they can see online.
“Make that part of the conversation. Make that part of what you ask your kids what they do every day.
You want to make sure you know where your child or teen is. And who they’re dealing with, you need to know what they’re doing online. That way you can help that kid or teen and say, “Hey, these things aren’t safe. They look like they’re safe because in a lot of these videos they don’t really show what’s happening and they show the long-term consequences.’”