As dangerous trends come and go, it is important for parents to keep a constant dialogue with their teens about social media.
The duct tape challenge, where someone is wrapped in duct tape and challenged to break free within a certain period of time, is the latest social media trend, with countless unique videos, and certain videos garnering up to over 2 million views. However, it's also reached the news in the past few days for a different reason. Recently, a teen in Washington state sustained a serious brain injury and facial fractures while participating in the duct tape challenge with his friends, and his mother is hoping to raise awareness of how dangerous this stunt can be.
We previously blogged about other dangerous social media trends (see Neknomination, and the Knockout game) and why they become so popular. But just how attractive these videos can be was made clear when one of my adolescent patients described, with breathless excitement, the duct tape phenomenon to me in between fits of giggles.
The reach and popularity of these videos can seem so attractive and outweigh any perceived risk to a teen whose brain, including impulse control, is still developing. Activities in the virtual world, with its removal from direct, in-person connection, may also seem less risky. For my patient, it was as if she were watching a fictional movie. Yet, her excitement about the video indirectly supports these trends and eggs others on to make more of these kinds of videos.
It's important for clinicians, teachers, and parents to be aware of how to speak with our teens about better understanding the consequences of not just the fad itself but also what it means when we watch and share videos like these. Encouraging parents and teens to keep an open dialogue about their social media habits provides an opportunity to have a conversation about how unsafe some trending behaviors caught on video are in the real world. For more tips about keeping that social media dialogue open, read my colleague Flaura Winston's post about that here.
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