What are some dangerous games kids play? Since the advent of social media, parents worry more than ever about their kids being influenced by viral challenges and games that could be incredibly dangerous. While teenagers have been accidentally hurting themselves and each other for centuries, they now can have audiences all over the world thrilling to their misadventures. Add that to the speed with which trends travel, and you’ve got a recipe for a lot of kids getting hurt to impress other kids.
Or do you? While it’s clear that kids do play dangerous games and test their limits, it’s also clear that many of these games are nothing more than moral panics. A kid gets hurt doing something stupid, blames it on some new game that “the kids” are playing, and the news media goes into action hyping the new thing to be afraid of – even if it’s not really a trend.
So are “games” like car surfing, the choking game, sack tapping, 30 second fighting and skittling just lurking out there, waiting to pounce on naive parents and kids? Or are they mostly just isolated incidents of kids being bored and feeling immortal? Here are some of the dangerous games kids might be playing, what they are, and whether they’re really real, or just hype-driven scares.
The Blue Whale Challenge
WHAT IS IT? An Internet game where people are assigned specific tasks by administrators to accomplish within 50 days. The final challenge is to commit suicide – and, in some cases, on a lifestream.
IS IT REAL? Sadly, yes. The Blue Whale Challenge originated from Russia in 2013, and since then people all over the world have committed suicide under the instruction of the “administrators.” The game began over a Russian social network, but permeated into other social media platforms. It’s unclear who the administrators are, or how kids even get involved in this game, but it’s had devastating effects.
Kids from five continents have either successfully killed themselves or severely injured themselves because of the challenge. In a few instances, adults also injured themselves at the directive of their administrator.
So far, US officials believe the game is responsible for at least two suicides. Isaiah Gonzales, of Texas, hung himself in his home in July 2017. A girl only identified as Nadia also killed herself that month, and left behind haunting paintings of blue whales.
WHAT IS IT? You get wrapped in duct-tape, either to a chair or simply wrapped up in it, and try to break out. Someone else films it for posterity.
IS IT REAL? It’s definitely real for one Seattle-area teen. 14-year-old Skylar Fish was wrapped in duct-tape and fell, hitting his head on a window pane and causing severe injuries. Fish suffered a brain aneurysm, crushed eye socket, needed dozens of stitches, and might lose his vision in one eye.
But one injury doesn’t make a trend. And despite the breathless news stories calling the duct-tape challenge “a viral Internet craze” and a “popular new trend,” the challenge doesn’t appear to be anything more than one of many YouTube pranks that are watched and emulated by teenagers. It’s certainly not new, showing up in Google Trends as far back as September, 2012 – and duct-taping people to things as a prank is way older than that.
Like most “dangerous new trends” there’s no reliable data on how many kids have actually done it, and how many of them have gotten hurt. It’s just that the really horrific injuries, like the one Skylar Fish suffered, become major stories.
The Choking Game
WHAT IS IT? A form of autoerotic asphyxiation, the choking game became an Internet sensation in 2014 when a Lifetime made for TV movie came out and started scaring the hell out of parents. It involves self-strangulation by using a strap or noose of some kind to cut off the oxygen supply to the brain and create a high.
IS IT REAL? Sadly, there have been a number of deaths caused by children accidentally strangling themselves, though it’s hard to tell whether this is from some kind of organized activity or from individual kids experimenting with something dangerous. The CDC looked into 82 reported choking game deaths and found those who died ranged in age from 6 to 19, and that virtually all of the children were alone when they died. This suggests experimentation gone wrong.
IS IT REAL? These sorts of eating “challenges” have been around for decades, using almost anything you can think of as food. Some have done it with Saltines, others with bananas and Sprite, a gallon of milk, or pretty much anything else. Mythbusters did an episode about it, and it’s been featured on a number of other TV shows and in hugely popular YouTube videos. The challenge has led to hundreds of calls to emergency services, but no known deaths. It’s a bad idea, no matter what substance you’re devouring.
IS IT REAL? Not to be confused with the “knockout game,” which is definitely a moral panic caused by a few isolated incidents, the knockout challenge was making the rounds in 2012 as the newest thing for parents to be afraid of, but it doesn’t appear to have caught on in popular culture, except for a few isolated cases.
IS IT REAL? Sadly, yes. The CDC reported about 100 deaths and injuries from car surfing between 1990 and 2008, and it’s become more popular in recent years, though actual statistics on it aren’t readily available. The deaths tend to make the news, since they’re especially gruesome and usually filmed for posterity.
WHAT IS IT? Dumb kids pouring alcohol on their skin and setting it on fire. And posting the videos to YouTube. Because, of course you’d do that.
IS IT REAL? Like most of these idiotic “challenges,” there are a number of videos of kids actually doing this really dumb and dangerous thing. At least one 15 year old boy died after setting himself on fire, with numerous other serious burns making the news. But is it a “trend?” There aren’t any statistics that show how many kids have actually done this, so it’s impossible to know if this is something to worry about or just a case of the media hyping a few isolated cases. In any case, DO NOT DO THIS.
IS IT REAL? As another form of “stuffing a bunch of crap in your face,” chubby bunny is real. In fact, it goes back as far as a Peanuts comic strip from 1959. Two people have died from choking during a game of chubby bunny, but both incidents took place at crowded fairs, not in dark teenage bedrooms.
30 Second Fight Game
IS IT REAL? As real as kids fighting each other in schools, which kids have been doing for decades. There’s a popular Twitter account called @ ThirtySecFights that has over 570,000 followers, but it’s hard to tell if the fights it posts are two kids deciding to “play the game” or just two kids fighting, and it not lasting very long. Most fights between kids who have no training last just a few seconds.
The Scratching Game
IS IT REAL? As with most of these games, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s moral panic. There was one case in 2007 of a girl playing what her stepfather called “the ABC game” scratching herself so badly that she developed a necrotizing infection that required seven surgeries to treat. There was also an apparent injury in North Carolina in 2011. But beyond that, it’s not readily apparent that the game is especially popular – meaning these were probably just kids doing the same dumb things kids have done for all time.
IS IT REAL? Sack tapping made big news in 2010 when a kid punched a friend so hard in the scrotum that his unfortunate victim lost a testicle. Moral panic and pearl-clutching followed, with news outlets declaring that sack tapping was the newest “dangerous craze.” Except it’s not new at all, with stories about boys hitting each other in the nuts floating around for decades, using a variety of names for their shenanigans. It’s hard to tell how widespread the trend is, since all available statistics for groin injuries treated in medical clinics also include sports injuries and accidents.
IS IT REAL? Prescription drug abuse is a real problem among teens, and there are a number of documented cases of kids having bad reactions to DXM overdoses. As a response, most drug stores no longer sell DXM-containing products without a doctor’s note. It’s worth it to note that DXM abuse isn’t a new phenomenon, as DXM was first synthesized in the late-’50s, and the first cough syrup with DXM was pulled from store shelves in the ’70s after people began abusing it.
Ice and Salt Challenge
IS IT REAL? Yes, but as usual, it’s hard to tell how many kids are actually doing it and how many are getting hurt doing it. No reliable statistics exist to measure the popularity of the fad. Several kids have gotten badly burned doing it, but that doesn’t make it a trend – just stupid and dangerous.
IS IT REAL? Despite the moral panic caused by stories about kids gobbling handfuls of pills, it’s difficult to find a single documented example of skittling, or any story that mentions it with concrete evidence that it’s taken place. Authorities simply issued warnings about it being the new “craze” among teens without checking to see if a pharm party has ever actually happened.
The Knife Game
IS IT REAL? It’s been around forever, but the knife game briefly caused a moral panic when a YouTube video for something called “ the Knife Game Song” went viral in 2013. Beyond a few injuries caused by kids playing the game as a result, very little happened, and the Internet moved on to the next trend.
Game of 72
IS IT REAL? Like most other “number” games, there are variations on how long authorities think kids are disappearing for – be it 12 hours, 24, or 72. But are any of these games real, and not trumped up moral panics? I t doesn’t appear so. Stories exploded in May 2015 after a girl disappeared following a Facebook post that encouraged her to get back at her parents by vanishing. Police departments duly issued warnings about the exploding popularity of the “game of 72.” Except it wasn’t popular at all. The game was a hoax dreamed up by a young girl in France. Most of the social media chatter about it is either parents scaring each other or people claiming it’s not real.
WHAT IS IT? Yet another viral challenge, this one involves trying to stuff a condom up your nose and trying to pull it out of your mouth. Doesn’t that sound fun and dignified?
IS IT REAL? Videos of dumb kids snorting condoms go back to 2007, but the “trend” gained steam in 2013 after a couple of videos of it went viral. A few kids do appear to be doing it and putting the videos online, but there’s no evidence of anyone being injured by it – and many of the reactions to the videos are of disgust, as opposed to admiration. Because it’s gross.
WHAT IS IT? Kids who will get in trouble for having alcohol on their breath skip the middleman and pour vodka into their eyeballs.
IS IT REAL? Yet another instance of a few YouTube videos and one injury being mistaken for a trend, vodka eyeballing went viral after a 2010 Daily Mail story made it out to be the new scourge of parental liquor cabinets. But subsequent research demonstrated that the trend really was just those few hundred YouTube, and this idiotic stunt is not something that The Kids are obsessed with.
WHAT IS IT? Kids call 911 to report a hostage situation that’s going on in the home of someone they want to pull a prank on. Moments later, a fully armed SWAT team busts down their door. Hilarious.
IS IT REAL? The phenomenon of swatting is very real, and has been done to a number of celebrities and high-profile video game players. The thinking is that a live-streamed game play session can show the results of your prank and make you internet famous. But as with all teen trends, it’s hard to know just how often it’s happening, as opposed to the few times it does happen making news. The FBI doesn’t have any statistics to show how prevalent it is, and the most viral story about swatting, that of a 15 year old boy given 25-to-life for a swatting prank, turned out to be a hoax. But prominent gamers claim they’ve been swatted numerous times, and several arrests have been made.
Cold Water Challenge
WHAT IS IT? Jump in a freezing lake or river, film yourself doing it, then nominate a friend to take the plunge.
IS IT REAL? People have been jumping into really cold water for no good reason for a long time. Charity “polar bear plunges” are a staple of Canada’s New Years Day traditions, and many towns and cities all over the world have them. So one can’t say this is a “new” phenomenon. But it made the news big time in May 2014, when a Minnesota teen died after swimming alone in a freezing lake, and it was attributed to him taking the “cold water challenge.”
In an interesting twist, just a few months later, a variation on this, the ice bucket challenge, went enormously viral and raised millions for ALS research.
Saltine Cracker Challenge
WHAT IS IT? Eat five (or six or seven) saltine crackers in less than a minute without water.
IS IT REAL? It’s about as real as eating a bunch of saltines because they’re salty and tasty. This one ever so quickly became a thing because of a video of a YouTube star doing it, but it’s not dangerous in the least. It’s really not even challenging.
The Deodorant Challenge
WHAT IS IT? In this viral challenge, teens are encouraged to spray aerosol deodorant onto their bare skin basically as long as they can endure the sting. While this may sound relatively harmless, prolonged exposure to the chemicals in such deodorants rapidly cool the skin. This can lead to frostbite, which leaves injuries similar to burns.
IS IT REAL? Yes. On April 18, 2018, a 15-year-old in South Gloucestershire, England participated in the challenge. The results were gruesome. Jamie Prescott, the teen’s mother, shared her daughter’s story via Facebook to discourage teens from taking part in the Deodorant Challenge. Prescott’s daughter, Ellie, ended up with severe burns on her arm to the point doctors suggested a skin graft as treatment. Ellie talked to Fox News about her experience, saying, “It’s a hole in my arm and there’s all this yellow stuff coming out.”