Ya know, social media is so cool. I love using it to build audiences, connect to other bloggers and learn new techniques but when something like this is brought to my attention, as a mom, I get a little concerned.
A recent article in Newsweek basically sent me into a period of hot flashes as I read about some of the new things teenagers are doing with social media.
Evidently there was this weird challenge that teens were participating which involves swallowing a tablespoon of cinnamon without any water. Besides the fact that this is just plain stupid, public health officials are warning people that swallowing a tablespoon of cinnamon without water can conceivably lead to vomiting, choking and a trip to the ER. The challenge was initially posted all over various social media sites with the hashtag #cinnamonchallenge back in 2012 and poison control noted calls regarding cinnamon overdosing.
Good grief kids, why. would. you. do. this?
The bigger concern lies in the “other” challenges that come from doing stupid stunts like this…….
“Since mid-March, social media have been flooded with videos of young people creating blowtorch-size dragon-breath puffs of fire by putting flame into contact with flammable liquid (usually while indoors). It began when one teen Instagram user gave the stunt a try and tagged the video post #FireSprayChallenge.”
I looked it up by hashtag on Instagram and the multitude of videos I found were very disturbing. It was exactly as Newsweek described, like that of a torture chamber.
Apparently this #FireSprayChallenge came about from an earlier challenge where teens were literally dowsing themselves in alcohol and lighting their bodies on fire and then jumping into a pool or shower.
Can we just stop here and agree that this is a perfect example of how a teenager’s brain is not totally developed yet?
Scientist have studied the brains of teenagers and have discovered this:
“The teen brain is compelled to seek out new experiences that help the brain learn, but teens don’t yet have the tools to make rational choices. That’s why accidents, drug use, unprotected sex and other risky behaviors are much more common in young people, some experts say.”
What makes me so sad is that these sweet teenagers of ours are willing to try anything for a quick “snap” or 30 seconds of fame and while risk taking is nothing new in our society, many are saying that the Internet has made it worse. But is it really the Internet that has made it worse or is it the fact that social media is just one way to showcase one-upmanship as the epidemic it really is?
“Meanwhile, something else is also occurring around this time that makes young people more likely to get into trouble: puberty. As the body gears up for the changes that come with sexual maturity, it ramps up production of hormones—including dopamine, the “feel good” neurotransmitter that increases when the brain’s reward system is triggered. Whether the reward is food, sex, money, drugs, retweets, followers or Instagram likes, dopamine functions pretty much the same way. The biological need to feel good compels a person to behave in a way that will provide stimulus and reward.”
As a parent of teens, I am often baffled by the decisions they make, but I can not even imagine what I would do if I found out my 13 year old was trying to chew and swallow a cactus plant for media attention or really, any kind of attention for that matter. But my daughter assures me the pressure to meet these crazy challenges is real. Once one kid does some sort of challenge then the others go along so they don’t feel left out and uncool.
The newest challenge, my teenage daughter informed me, is the Sharpie Shock Challenge. As shown below in the video, when you take a black Sharpie and color it on your skin and then use your cellular flash on the spot, it creates heat which often feels like an electric shock.
WOW…that looks fun….NOT! I mean, who thinks of these things?
It is a challenging time for parents, there is no doubt about it. Other than hiding our kids in their rooms until they are 18, what are we to do to keep them from participating in crazy, stupid, behaviors?
- Influence - Who are our children’s biggest influence? Is it a parent? A grandparent? A teacher? Or is it their peers? Parents need to know who their kids are being influenced by and how. A look at their cellular devices to see what kind of videos they are watching, what social media sites they are on and what they are posting, and what kind of music they are listening to is a really good start. Any teenager that proclaims their right to privacy loses their technology in my house. Until they are paying their own bills, they know that I get complete access to all electronics, logins and all!
- 2. Communication - Communication is soooooo redundant but guess what? It is soooooo key. WE. HAVE. GOT. TO. TALK. TO. OUR. KIDS. I honestly do not know how to be any more clear about this. And I am not talking about saying things like “how was your day?”. I am talking about those deep, uncomfortable, conversations that leave everyone feeling vulnerable and emotionally dissected. Because it is within those types of conversations that real connection, insight and growth takes place. Where there is no judgement, no one-upmanship and no need for fame. That is when a parent is going to realize what is really going on in the life and heart of their child. And no tablespoon of cinnamon can replace the reward of deep security that comes from the love of a parent.
What do you do to make sure your kids know that they don’t have to join in these careless challenges to be accepted, liked or cool? Do you have any other advice for parents with teenagers that might be struggling with social media dares and challenges? Leave a comment and let us know if you think the problem is the Internet, parenting, society or if it’s just a given that teens are going to make dumb decisions and all we can do is hope for the best.