How to keep your teen safe from dangerous social media challenges

Viral social media trends started innocently enough. In the early 2010s, there was planking, the “Harlem Shake” dance, and lip-syncing to Carly Rae Jepsen’s summer anthem “Call Me Maybe.” Then came the ice bucket challenge, which raised an estimated US$115 million for ALS research. In recent years, social media challenges have grown more popular – and more dangerous, leading to serious injuries and even deaths. It’s not hard to see why. The milk crate challenge dares people to walk or run across a loosely stacked pyramid of milk crates, the Tide pod challenge involves eating laundry detergent pods, and the Benadryl challenge encourages taking six or more doses of over-the-counter allergy medication all at once. Read news coverage based on evidence, not tweets As clinical psychology researchers, we study why social media challenges are so appealing to teens despite the dangers they pose, and steps parents can take to protect their kids. The appeal of viral stunts Image: Pexels Almost all American teens today have access to a smartphone and actively use multiple social media platforms – with YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat being the most popular among this age group. Meanwhile, the teenage years are linked to an increase in risk-taking. The human brain isn’t fully developed until a person reaches their mid-20s, and the parts of the brain that relate to reward and doing what feels good develop more quickly than areas linked to decision-making. As a result, teens are more likely to act impulsively and risk physical injury to gain popularity. Teens are also particularly vulnerable to social pressure. A 2016 study found that teens were more likely to “like”…How to keep your teen safe from dangerous social media challenges

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