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Paul M. D'Amore
Paul M. D'Amore

Founding Member, Trial Lawyer

Dangers of Viral Challenges

Parents- do you know what your kids have been up to online? If they enjoy participating in online challenges you should be keeping a close eye on them. One slip in judgment could put your child in the hospital…or worse.


Viral Challenges Are Leading to Deaths!

Viral challenges have been overtaking the internet for years. Some of the challenges are good-natured, looking to raise awareness and funds for deserving causes such as the Ice Bucket Challenge, supporting the ALS Association. Unfortunately, most of these challenges are created purely for attention and competition, with the possibility of serious injuries or even death as a result:

  • In July 2017, an 11-year-old girl participated in the Hot Water Challenge when she was dared by her cousin to drink boiling hot water. Her injuries were so severe, she was forced to undergo a tracheotomy and later died from the trauma.
  • A mysterious and deadly worldwide challenge last heard of in 2017 was called the Blue Whale Challenge. This deadly game encouraged participants to complete daily tasks for 50 days, ending in the goal of suicide and leading to a suspected 130 deaths just in Russia alone.

Viral challenges are taking the lives of people all over the world, teens serving as the most highly influenced population. Challenges generally fit into one of four categories: funny, food, physical, and frightening.


Funny Challenges

Just because a viral challenge is meant to be funny, doesn’t mean it is. Kids trying to gain a few laughs from online admirers are getting injured in the process, some even permanently:  

  • KiKi Challenge: This challenge was made famous after Drake’s song “In My Feelings”, daring participants to get out of a moving vehicle and perform a choreographed dance with the car door open. There have been several car accidents since this challenge started and severe injuries resulting from failed dance attempts or missed road hazards such as oncoming traffic.
  • Kylie Lip Challenge: When Kylie Jenner first released her new puffed up lips, she had girls all over the country trying to replicate the look. Unfortunately, this resulted in them using various objects to temporarily inflate their lips, including glass shot glasses which shattered causing nasty facial injuries.
  • Condom Challenges: There are two popular condom challenges on social media right now and neither of them are very funny:
      • Condom Water Challenge: This one involves one person filling up a condom with water and dropping it over another person’s head to create a water bubble. Sadly, teens have mistaken condoms as water balloons which break much more easily on contact. Many teens have gone to the hospital from attempting this challenge and a 17-year-old from Texas even died from inhaling a toxic combination of lubricant and water.  
      • Condom Snorting Challenge: It’s hard to believe you would have to tell someone not to stick a condom up their nose, but apparently you do. These challenge participants inhale a condom through one nostril with the goal of pulling it out their mouth- which could result in choking and suffocating depending on where the condom becomes lodged. Snorting condoms could also pose a risk for damaging the nasal cavity or resulting in a nasty infection.


Food Challenges

Food challenges can range from disgusting to downright dangerous. But for some reason, teens are finding it hilarious to watch each other ingest foods that are either not meant to be eaten or are being eaten incorrectly:

  • Chubby Bunny: Participants in this challenge must stuff their mouth with as many marshmallows as possible with the ability to still say ‘chubby bunny’. Two people have died of suffocation from this challenge and several other unreported choking incidents are predicted to have occurred.
  • Cinnamon Challenge: Ingesting ground cinnamon can lead to choking, throat irritation, breathing troubles and even collapsed lungs. Even so, these participants in this challenge are expected to ingest one whole spoonful of cinnamon without drinking water and it’s causing a surge in calls to U.S. poison centers.
  • Hot Pepper Challenge: There is nothing wrong with eating spicy food, but the Hot Pepper Challenge takes it to the next level. People are videotaping themselves eating some of the world’s hottest peppers…and no, it’s not safe. Eating these vegetables could result in shortness of breath, vomiting, seizures, and in some cases with children, even death.



Pushing your body to the limits in some cases is considered admirable. In the case of these viral challenges, the ‘push’ is unnecessarily dangerous:

  • Salt and Ice Challenge: When you add salt to ice, the freezing point is lowered to -17 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that can lead to frostbite. Yet, participants of this challenge put salt on their skin with ice over it to see how long they can withstand the burn. Teens are walking away from this challenge with serious skin burns, some even leaving permanent scarring and tissue damage.
  • Hot Water Challenge: What’s being considered as the opposite of the Ice Bucket Challenge but is far less recommended is the Hot Water Challenge. Participants are pouring boiling hot water on their bodies or even drinking it to prove they can withstand the heat, however, no one can. Aside from the 11-year-old’s death after drinking boiling hot water, other victims have reported horrifying burns on their faces and bodies from attempting this absurd prank.



These challenges are popular among teens because they are known for being dangerous. Injuries and death are almost a given with these types of games. Here are only some of the many challenges parents should be vigilant of:

  • Choking Game: This game has come back into popularity recently and its effects are terrifying. Teens are choking each other to see who can resist the urge to pass out the longest. Cutting off oxygen to the brain has caused several deaths and can result in permanent brain damage.
  • Car Surfing Challenge: Seatbelts are always recommended when riding in a car, but there aren’t any on the outside. Teens are seeing how long they can hold on or ‘surf’ on the top or front of the car while it is in motion. As a result, teens are flying off and sustaining severe and fatal injuries or even getting run over by other cars on the roads.
  • Fire Challenge: There is a serious misconception with this challenge that is allowing it to spread like wildfire (no pun intended). This challenge involves teens attempting to light themselves on fire, take a photo, and then put themselves out with cold water quick enough before sustaining any burns. Unfortunately for the participants, fires spread quickly and burns can happen immediately. This challenge has resulted in several severe burns, some covering the entire body and requiring skin grafts to fix.


Why Do Teens Go This Far

What is it about viral challenges that make teenagers so vulnerable and naturally addicted to dangerous behaviors? In an article published by the National Institute of Health (NIH), psychologists and neuroscientists report that the teen brain develops the incentive/reward system before the cognitive control system. Their want for attention and to stand out far exceeds the need to stay safe, which puts teens in a risky position when it comes to viral challenges.

Trouble controlling impulses, understanding long-term consequences, and realizing their own vulnerability to risky acts clouds teenage judgment especially when paired with social pressures. They don’t necessarily understand or believe what could go wrong with dangerous challenges, only considering what could go right at the moment. Teens with little online supervision are much more likely to participate in dangerous and deadly challenges- what can parents do to help?


What Can Parents Do  

Parental influence can be extremely beneficial when it comes to deterring dangerous behaviors such as participating in risk viral challenges. The more information we provide to our kids, the better their chances of thinking twice before they light themselves on fire or jump out of a moving car.

An article released by Parent Info provides suggestions for parents looking to help prevent their teens from unnecessary injuries due to careless social media challenges:

  • Start a Conversation: Talk to your kids about the challenges you know of and the ones they are familiar with. Ask them which ones they have considered getting involved in.
  • Stress Control: Don’t let your teens believe they are not in control of their behaviors. Remind them that they do not have to do anything they do not want to and that friends who apply peer pressure may not be the best supporters.
  • Stepping Back: Ask your teen to step back and observe the situation before they consider getting involved. Ask them to think about the risks before they participate, to see if they can weigh the possible consequences.
  • Discourage Dares: Discourage your teens from daring others to become involved in dangerous behaviors. Teaching your teens about the ability they have to influence others can be extremely powerful in spreading positive behaviors rather than unhealthy ones.
  • Encourage Safety: If you still believe your teens could participate in harmful challenges, encourage them to do so safely and with people they trust.

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