Dangerous social media trends: What can be done to prevent or stop these alarming challenges?

Posted at 9:31 AM, Oct 13, 2021

(WXYZ) — Social media challenges can be fun, like the mannequin challenge, or they can even help promote a good cause, like the ALS ice bucket challenge.


But then other trends emerge on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok that can be dangerous and, at times, have resulted in serious injuries as well as death.

From the "choking game" to"Devious licks," as well this month’s alleged "slap a teacher" contest, Dr. Steve Matthews, superintendent of the Novi Community School District, says it’s all very disturbing.

"It was a real concern for school administrators ... trying to make sure that students understood that this kind of behavior is really not appropriate and could also lead to some discipline at the school," he said.

Pediatrician Dr. Corinn Cross says the challenges that break the law and endanger lives present a deeper issue.

"A lot of kids who go onto social media, they don’t intend to go on to look for something that they could possibly do to injure or hurt themselves, but they get pulled into it," said Dr. Cross.

In a statement issued to 7 Action News, TikTok writes, “dangerous challenges and illegal behavior are not allowed on our platform and will be removed. We expect teens to use common courtesy both online and IRL, and we're committed to helping support messages about being good digital stewards."

But technological entrepreneurs like Aza Raskins says the line between real life and the digital world is blurred.

"These platforms are now upstream of both politics and culture, they set the norms for our societies," said Raskins.

As for the "slapping challenge," TikTok says, “This alleged 'challenge' would violate our policies and we would aggressively remove such content, but the reality is that we have not found related content on our platform, and most people appear to be learning about the offline dare from sources other than TikTok.”

Wayne State University Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Hannah Schacter says such challenges may be inevitable as it gives youngsters instant gratification even if they are aware of the consequences.

“That kind of social reward of receiving the likes or validations can trigger activation in the same brain region where we might feel the same reward when we eat sugar," said Dr. Schacter.

So, the real question is can such trends be contained?

"The solution is reducing the virality. No one company can do that alone, it has to be across Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, all at once," said Dr. Schacter.

In the meantime, students are being strongly advised to not take part in such challenges, as they come with some serious consequences, including breaking the law and injuring themselves or others.

Other Resources:

Read Scholastic's 5 Healthy Social Media Habits Every Teen Should Know
Center for Humane Technology Youth Kit