Do you know what your kids are doing for summer fun? Have you heard them talking about food challenges? Have they mentioned the chubby bunny game, the choking game, or burns? If you have heard them talking about any of these activities, they may be involved in potentially dangerous activities or know someone else who is involved in risky behaviors.
The activities listed in this blog can be an issue year-round, however the risk to children and teens during the summer months is increased due to the fact that they often have less adult supervision while school is out. In addition, they have a great deal of time on their hands. Add the internet to the mix and you could have an accident waiting to happen. Remember, to kids these behaviors seem harmless and humorous. Social media has made light of these behaviors and even promoted them as the “cool” thing to do.
So, what is a parent to do? Educate yourself, so you can educate your kids. The human brain is not completely developed until our early twenties, therefore kids and young adults do not always think through the consequences of their actions. They often view themselves as invincible, they do not believe anything bad will happen to them and they surely do not believe that they could cause permanent physical damage or death to themselves. It is our jobs as the adults to educate young people on the consequences of their actions.
Be proactive, have a conversation with your kids about these type of pranks. A great way to do this is to use an article or news report to bring up the topic. Use the internet to find some articles on these different challenges.
Pay attention to what your kids are viewing online. Check their history on their computers, phones, and other electronics. See our April blog entitled Kids and Technology for additional suggestions in this area.
Listen to what your kids are talking about. If they are using any of the terms listed in this blog or others you have not heard before, ask them what they mean. Most kids think these pranks are funny and want to share them with others, even their parents.
If you find out your child is engaging in these behaviors stay calm. You want to be the kind of parent that your kid can come talk to. If you “freak out”, as my kids so lovingly call it, they will be hesitant to tell you things. Give them the facts about the risks they are taking and let them know you love them and want to keep them safe. Help them come up with “risk taking” behaviors that are appropriate, such as riding a rollercoaster or engaging in athletics. Have a discussion with them about what motivates these type of behaviors, such as peer pressure and need to compete for status among their friends. Help them figure out how to handle those issues in appropriate ways.
Read on to learn more about these type of “games”, pranks, and dares:
In recent months, there has been a great deal of media attention given to The Cinnamon Challenge, after a paper published in the journal Pediatrics indicated that the popular dare has resulted in numerous calls to poison control, asthma attacks in people who have never had asthma before, pneumonia, pulmonary edema (the abnormal build-up of fluid in the lungs), collapsed lungs, permanent lung damage, and some cases in which people have had to be placed on ventilators. There are several other similar risky challenges and dares that are currently popular and circulating the web. Videos of people trying these stunts may influence your child and their friends.
The Candy Challenge, also known as the Warhead/Sour Patch Challenge, is when someone eats a large quantity of sour candy. The challenge is to eat more than the person before you. This challenge results in a bloody tongue and damage to taste buds due to the ascorbic acid in the candy. In addition, as with any food challenge, there is the potential to choke on the candy. Other possible concerns would be irritation or damage to the esophagus, stomach upset, and an increase in symptoms of heartburn.
There are other challenges that pose the potential for serious choking hazards. The Cracker/Saltine Challenge has the challenger eat five or more crackers without anything to drink. The crackers dry out the mouth and make it very difficult to complete the challenge. In the Chubby Bunny “game” people try to see how many marshmallows they can fit in their mouths before they can no longer say the words "chubby bunny." This challenge has resulted in documented cases of choking deaths. There are other similar “games” with other foods, such as bread and grapes.
There are several different types of Chugging Challenges. Two of the most popular are the Milk Challenge and the Water Challenge. In the Milk Challenge the person has to drink a gallon of milk in an hour and then keep the milk down for another hour. The human stomach can't process an entire gallon of milk in one sitting, so what happens is the person will likely have a severe case of vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, and bloating. The kind of violent vomiting that comes from this challenge has the potential to damage the stomach lining and could result in a tear or ulceration.
In the Water Challenge, the challenger drinks as much water as they can, while resisting the urge to go to the bathroom for as long as possible. Drinking too much water causes fluid imbalance in your cells due to diluting the sodium in the bloodstream. This does not only cause nausea and headaches, but can lead to brain swelling, respiratory arrest, coma, and death. The average healthy person should ingest no more than approximately 8 ounces, in roughly an hour so that the body has adequate time to process the water appropriately.
The Banana Sprite Challenge is to quickly eat two bananas and drink one liter of Sprite without vomiting. Bananas are highly digestible and leave no space for the gas in the Sprite. In addition, the potassium in the banana could react with the carbon dioxide in the sprite causing a build up of gas in the stomach causing vomiting. A similar stunt is the baking soda and vinegar challenge. The person takes baking soda and vinegar together, which produces gas in the stomach. When the person vomits they are vomiting the vinegar, which is not good for your throat or lungs if you happen to some.
There are several burn games being promoted on the internet as well. Such as ice/salt burns, eraser burns, and lighter smiley faces. All of these challenge the person to prove they can withstand pain. The ice and salt burn involves wetting an area of skin, covering it with table salt, and applying pressure with an ice cube. Usually, water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but adding salt causes the freezing point to drop to as low as zero degrees Fahrenheit. When kids put ice to a salt-covered, moist area of skin, they will experience extreme pain. Depending on how long the ice stays on, there can be blistering, first- or second-degree burns, or even frostbite.
Eraser burns (aka: The ABC Test or The Sissy Test) are caused by using a pencil eraser or chunk eraser and rubbing against their skin until an opening in the skin develops. The smiley face burn is when a person takes a lighter and keeps it lit so that the metal is extremely hot then presses the top on the lighter to your skin. The burnt imprint is a smiley face.
The problem, that most kids don’t realize, is burns can result in a severe infection. Once the wound begins to heal, they still have an opening (although scabbed) where other bacteria can enter the body and infect them, meaning they have a higher chance of Staph or Strep, skin infections (MRSA, Scalded Skin Syndrome, or Toxic Shock Syndrome),Tetanus (Lock Jaw), and diseases passed by blood and body fluids (Hepatitis and HIV). NOT every scar heals well and they could be left with a scar for life.
Another so called game, is the Choking Game. The participants cut off their oxygen supply to create feeling similar to being high. The game is also known as the "fainting game", "seven minutes to heaven", "tapping out" or "sleeper hold". The person is supposed to relieve the pressure just before losing consciousness. However, cutting off air supply with belts, ropes, or bare hands, puts kids at risk for brain damage, stroke, and even death. In addition, if another person is helping with this game they can be held legally liable if the person being choked is injured or dies. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs that your child is playing the choking game include unexplained bruises around the neck, frequent headaches, bloodshot eyes, and disorientation. A study published in Pediatrics by the Oregon Health Authority and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated approximately 82 kids ages six to 19 died after playing the choking game, between 1995 and 2007. It is believed that these numbers may be even higher with the publicity that this game has been getting on social media sites.
The above are just a few of the pranks that kids are engaging in. The pranks change often and new ones are being added to the list each year. Keep yourself informed by doing internet searches, talking to your kids, talking to other adults, and keeping up on the media regarding current trends with kids.
For more information on potentially hazardous pranks and ways to address these behaviors, additional ways to support your family and for other great parenting tips call the Family Support Line at 1-800-CHILDREN (800-244-5373) OR 1-866-Las-Familias (866-527-3264) for Spanish speakers. You can also e-mail stacy@FamiliesFirstColorado.org with questions or concerns. Check us out on Facebook at Families First Colorado. The Family Support Line offers parenting tips, resources and information only and does not serve as legal or mental health advice. We believe you are the paramount person to decide what is best for your family. Comments provided by non-Families First individuals are not the opinion of Families First.