Dangerous Internet Trends Parents Should Know About

This blog is about keeping up with technology to educate my kids about it, but also keeping an eye out for the dangerous trends on popular websites and social media they might encounter directly or hear about from their friends.

I was inspired to write this post when I recently caught part of The Doctors TV show that featured a horrible story I just can’t get out of my head. The topic was ‘Deadly Viral Trends’ and featured a story about a family that lost their 13-year-old son the day after Thanksgiving. He was missing for a period of time that day and family members eventually found his body in a neighbor’s yard. They were shocked to learn he had been huffing (inhaling) freon (coolant) from an air-conditioning unit trying to get high. A practice he had seen on the internet that is referred to as “chasing the rat” or “chasing the rabbit.”

This boy resembled many kids I know in my life and the family could have been the folks next door in any of the suburban neighborhoods in this country. They spoke of their son as being bright, kind, popular and active…hardly a desperate, lonely child needing an escape. This was about a regular kid trying to get a quick high for recreational purposes and he didn’t have a clue about the risk he was taking.

Check out these video clips for more about this tragic story:
Death by Huffing Freon
What Parents Need to Know About Huffing

I found myself asking why? Why would kids be so stupid and think that was a reasonable thing to do? Then I remembered all the stupid things I did as a teen and recall feeling that I was invincible—as all young people do. I also remember what a powerful force peer pressure can be.

This tragic story got me thinking about all the things our kids are potentially exposed to on the internet – good and bad. They can learn about doing things we’ve never imagined. They can learn to make weapons, get high with common household items and challenge themselves to do risky, crazy stunts for entertainment or popularity. It’s mind-boggling. Much of this sort of thing is found on YouTube, and kids and teens are eating it up.

Below you’ll find information about some of the crazy and dangerous trends that are popular on the internet currently. Some of them were also featured on this recent episode of The Doctors and some I learned of doing more research on this topic. As parents we should be paying attention to these dangerous trends and talking to our kids, so someday we aren’t the one saying “I honestly believe he had no idea of the dangers of this.”

Smoking Alcohol

A scary new trend for teens looking to get a quick high is to inhale alcohol. They fill plastic bottles with small amounts of alcohol and pump it full of air. When they inhale the contents, the alcohol is absorbed by their lungs and goes straight to their brains, giving them an instant high.

Check out this story featured on the Today show about this truly frightening trend:
Dangerous viral trend threatens teens: ‘Smoking’ alcohol

Drinking Hand Sanitizer

Kids are taking advantage of the alcohol content of hand sanitizer and using it as a quick, cheap way to get drunk. Really? What happened to sneaking your parent’s vodka? This seems nuts to me and so unappealing, but I guess to some kids it seems like a reasonable way to get drunk quickly.

Here’s a link to a story and video from ABC News discussing this dangerous trend:
Teens Getting Drunk on Hand Sanitizer

Dangerous Physical Stunts

The Doctors TV show featured a segment on the popularity of videos on YouTube featuring people doing insanely dangerous stunts like jumping over moving cars. Anyone remember the reality show Jackass? Yeah…it’s like that. Kids and teens are watching these things and mimicking these stunts to videotape and share on the internet.
Dangerous Car Jumping Stunt

Snorting Condoms

This one is really hard to believe, but do a little search on YouTube and you’ll see thousands of videos of people doing it. With the “Condom Challenge” you attempt to snort a condom up your nose and then pull it out of your mouth. I know…ewwww!

Here’s a video clip from The Doctors explaining why this is a serious health risk:
Condom Snorting?

Salt and Ice Challenge

This is another dangerous YouTube phenomenon wherein people are recording themselves pouring salt on their skin and then applying ice to the area. This causes a burning sensation and the challenge is to see how long you can stand the pain before giving up.

In this video clip, The Doctors discuss why you should never do this as it is essentially inducing frostbite on your skin:
The Salt and Ice Challenge

Cinnamon Challenge

This is an extremely popular internet challenge. The objective is to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in under 60 seconds without drinking anything. Of course, you need to film yourself doing it and then upload it to the internet so your friends and total strangers can laugh at you as you choke and spew puffs of cinnamon all over the place.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it? But what people don’t realize is when they do this, they are also inhaling cinnamon particles into their lungs. There have been cases of teens suffering collapsed lungs and ending up on ventilators.

Take a look at this typical video clip from YouTube and think about how proud you’d feel watching your daughter spewing cinnamon all over your kitchen:

In another random video I found of a girl demonstrating the Cinnamon Challenge, as she preps for the challenge, she says “I’m going to do this again because I got like 80 likes the first time I did it…and I guess you guys like to see me torturing myself.” This comment speaks volumes about the mentality of some teens. She readily admits it is “torture,” yet she’s more than willing to do it again to be “liked.”

If it’s not already obvious, here’s a link to an article in Forbes magazine about why this is not a good idea:
5 Reasons Not to Take the Cinnamon Challenge.

Am I Pretty or Ugly Videos

This trend won’t kill, but it could certainly destroy a kid’s self-esteem. It’s become popular for young girls to post videos of themselves on YouTube asking people to comment on whether or not they think they are pretty or ugly. Talk about exposing your adolescent insecurities for the entire world to see. Can you imagine asking total strangers to rate your appearance? Do kids really believe that they can have any faith in the sincerity of any of the comments (positive or negative)? This really bothers me.

I ran into this sort of thing when researching how young kids are using Instagram. Kids are constantly posting messages and pictures asking followers to “rate” them or give their opinion of them. What if the comments are not favorable? How do they handle it?

Bottom Line

Make an effort to stay informed about some of the dangerous and popular trends that are circulating on the internet, as chances are, your kids will run into them. When you learn of these things, sit down and seriously talk about all the potential risks and consequences. It’s not enough to say “Don’t do that—it’s bad for you.” Tell them exactly why inhaling toxic chemicals makes their brain feel funky. Make sure they know it’s because it’s physically hurting them and could potentially seriously injure them…or worse. They need to hear it from you, so they don’t watch other people doing it and think it’s okay for them to do.

We can’t ignore these things and assume our kids are ‘too smart’ or ‘too strong’ to yield to peer pressure. Prepare them to handle these situations by educating them before they encounter them. Kids will do stupid things, but maybe if we are diligent we can steer them away from some of the things that can really harm them.

These are just a few examples of the many dangerous things floating around on the internet. I’m going to keep an eye out for more of the popular ones and will continue to share as I go. If you know of any harmful trends that your kids have mentioned or tried, please share your experience. Bringing an awareness to it may prove very helpful to someone.