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Internet challenges: Play stupid games, win stupid prizes

Updated: Oct 3, 2021

By Dhruv Anish Sep. 22, 2021

Kenneth Yang Art

The crate challenge is the latest in the line of dangerous viral “challenges” following the tide pod, cinnamon and choking challenges, applauding participants for risking their health for internet “clout.” Participants of the crate challenge stack industrial crates in a staircase pattern, then attempt to climb up without falling and injuring themselves. Social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram and TikTok all promote this outlandish behavior by rewarding users with likes and views, with the more ludicrous content receiving more popularity. The allure of stardom advertised by an “online spotlight” leads ordinary people to participate in these internet antics, hurting themselves and others in the hopes of garnering attention online.

Dangerous examples of recent challenges include the salt-and-ice challenge, in which teens coated their hands in salt and held ice for as long as they could. The challenge became popular through YouTube, with the original video amassing over 7.4 million views, inviting other YouTubers to create similar content for views. However, the chemical reaction between the ice and salt inflicted pain onto them, even resulting in two Iowa children receiving second and third degree burns.

The age group most susceptible to following internet trends are young children and teenagers. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that teenagers’ prefrontal cortices—the brain region that controls rational thought—are not fully developed until their mid-twenties. This leads them to be, by nature, more impulsive and likely to mimic internet trends for fame. Lacking adequate sensibility, when teens see their peers go viral after partaking in dangerous behavior, the potential risks evoke excitement instead of caution.

In addition, television talk shows advertise these outlandish behaviors, encouraging deluded teenagers to come on the show, be ridiculed and in turn, create entertaining content for show ratings. Internet star Danielle Bregoli, better known as “Bhad Bhabie,” went viral within days after appearing on the Doctor Phil show, attracting public attention for her disrespectful antics and her catchphrase “cash me outside,” which would later gain her over 16 million followers on Instagram. TV programs like “Doctor Phil” that attempt to portray outrageous behavior as harmful counterintuitively sway young viewers to replicate what they see on screen, who mistake it as a pathway to fame and social acceptance, as per University of Texas at Austin psychology professor Rachel E. Watson-Jones and colleagues. Although the attention that viral internet videos can bring is apparent, it is the negative influence of these videos that users should be conscious of before consuming content.

“I have not personally participated in any internet challenges,

but I have really enjoyed watching the crate challenges on Twitter and Instagram. Even though I would never do something risky like that myself, it makes for great entertainment and gets a lot of views,” Senior Aidan Cain said.

Kenneth Yang Art

To reduce the spread of harmful content, some social media sites enabled moderation services to remove or age-restrict any potentially dangerous posts that could influence younger viewers to attempt to replicate them. Challenges like the salt-and-ice challenge have been completely removed from Instagram and YouTube, replaced by warnings to users to not engage in similar challenges. Additionally, news sources like the National Broadcasting Company publish information about troubling internet trends, giving parents the opportunity to intervene before children look to mimic them.

“Challenges can be rather idiotic because they are so widespread that going through social media becomes a chore—everyone is producing the same risky content in a desperate attempt to become famous,” Sophomore Matthew Phan said.

The chase of short-lived fame through partaking in challenges is outweighed by the adverse effects they can have on one’s mental and physical state.

A few likes on TikTok is not worth sacrificing one’s body or well-being.

About the Contributors

Dhruv Anish

Staff Writer

Dhruv Anish is a senior at Leland High School and a staff writer for The Charger Account. He likes to watch movies and listen to music in his spare time. His favorite actor is Robert Deniro and his favorite movie is The Godfather: Part 2

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