13 Online Challenges Your Kid Already Knows About

From the Momo Challenge to the Mannequin Challenge, internet stunts can be funny -- or completely frightening -- for kids. By Christine Elgersma
13 Online Challenges Your Kid Already Knows About

It's a tale as old as time: We see a lot of people wearing/doing/saying something and we want to try it, too. Back in the day it was saying "Bloody Mary" into a mirror at slumber parties. Today, it means viral social media stunts. Though adults get caught up, too, kids are especially susceptible to peer pressure and FOMO (fear of missing out). To them, what was once a double-dog dare is now a popular YouTuber eating a hot pepper just to see what happens.

Called "challenges," these stunts range from harmless to horrifying: There are the silly ones (such as the Mannequin Challenge); the helpful ones (like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge); the slightly risky ones (such as the Make Your Own Slime Challenge). But sometimes, challenges are downright dangerous, resulting in physical injury -- and possibly even death, like the Momo Challenge is reported to be. So what's a parent to do?

Below are some of the hottest challenges that have swept social media; some fade and then make a comeback. In most cases, kids are watching these challenges on YouTube purely for entertainment, but some challenges inspire kids to try them out themselves. (In fact, the safe ones can be fun for families to try.) Others -- like the Backpack Challenge -- are often done with the goal of filming other kids and broadcasting the results online. While there could be a new one as soon as tomorrow, they do seem to fall into certain categories, and there's some universal advice that parents can follow, no matter the challenge.

Frightening

Momo Challenge. This frightening social media challenge appears with an unforgettable, horrifying picture of a statue of a bird (that looks like a girl) and allegedly encourages kids to perform increasingly risky and harmful tasks, including hurting themselves. It can pop up in a variety of places but seems to center around Whatsapp, where a user is sent a link to click on. It's not new but resurfaces occasionally. Though some articles mention reports of kids actually harming or killing themselves as a result of the challenge, they are unsubstantiated. Some reports indicate it's actually a way for hackers to get access to devices, which poses a whole separate set of risks.

Choking/Fainting/Pass-Out Challenge. To get a high or faint, kids either choke other kids, press hard on their chests, or hyperventilate. Obviously, this is very risky, and it has resulted in death.

Tide Pod Challenge. Biting into a pod of laundry detergent is clearly not a good idea, but kids are doing it and posting videos of the results. Because the outside coating of the pods is meant to dissolve, they release their contents into a kid's mouth very quickly and cause chemical burns and kidney and lung problems.

Blue Whale Challenge. Though some challenges are physically dangerous, this one truly frightens parents. Over the course of 50 days, an anonymous "administrator" assigns self-harm tasks, like cutting, until the 50th day, when the participant is supposed to commit suicide. It is rumored to have begun in Russia, and there were reports that suicides were tied to the trend, but those are unverified and likely not true. Apps related to the Blue Whale Challenge were said to appear and were then removed. The biggest concern is teens who are at risk and may be susceptible to trends and media about suicide, because even if the challenge began as an isolated incident or hoax, it could become real.

 

Funny

Try Not to Laugh Challenge. Popularized by YouTubers like Markiplier, this trend involves watching short, funny videos and trying not to laugh. It's simple and harmless, though there's often a lot of laughing at others' expense.

Whisper Challenge. You may have seen this one on Jimmy Fallon: One person wears headphones playing loud music. The other person says a phrase out loud, and the one listening to music tries to read their lips and repeat the phrase. Hilarity ensues.

Mannequin Challenge. A group of people gets together, poses, and freezes in place, and someone with a camera walks around recording the scene while music plays. Even celebrities have gotten in on this one, including Michelle Obama, Ellen, and Adele.

 

Food

Eat It or Wear It Challenge. This one takes some prep: Put some different foods in separate bags and number them. A player chooses a number, checks out the food, and decides to eat it or wear it. If they eat it, they can dump the remainder on another player's head. If they choose to wear it … you can guess what happens. Other than a huge mess (and food allergies), this one is low-risk.

Hot-Pepper Challenge. You can probably guess: Eat a super hot pepper -- like a habanero or a ghost pepper -- while you film yourself suffering and chugging milk to try to stop the burning. Though most people get through it unscathed, there have been a few reports of people ending up at the hospital.

Cinnamon Challenge. Eat a spoonful of cinnamon, sputter and choke, and record the whole thing for others to enjoy. Again, though there may be some temporary discomfort, most kids won't get hurt -- but some have.

 

Physical

Bottle-Flipping Challenge. Partly fill a plastic water bottle and toss it in such a way that it lands right-side up. This one got so popular they made apps to replicate the experience!

Backpack Challenge. This one's a little like running a gauntlet. One person runs between two rows of people who try to hit you with heavy backpacks. The goal is to make it to the end without falling down … but no one ever does. Of course, it's easy for kids to get hurt doing this.

Kylie Lip Challenge. Oh, Kylie Jenner -- and her lips. In an effort to replicate them, kids would put a shot glass over their mouths, suck in, and make their lips swell artificially. Not only can it cause damage, but it also can be an indicator of body insecurities and the emulation of impossible beauty standards.

What to Do

Talk about it. Though we can't always be with our tweens and teens to prevent dangerous behavior, our words really can stay with them. Say, "If you ever want to do an internet challenge, check with me first."

Get them to think. Help your kid think through the challenges and whether they're safe or have potential risks. Say, "Walk through each step and figure out where things could go wrong."

Acknowledge peer pressure. Today's kids think of internet personalities as their peers, so seeing kids on YouTube doing a challenge could influence your kid. Say, "Why do you want to do this? Is this a video of yourself that you really want out in the world?"

Stay (somewhat) up to date. Ask your kid about what's happening in their lives when they're not distracted -- even when it seems like they don't want you to. Sometimes kids are more willing to talk about what's going on with other kids than with themselves, so pose questions about friends, school, and trends. Once the conversation is open, you can get a sense of what your kid thinks about the latest craze -- and if they're safe. Keep an open mind and intervene if you're concerned. Say, "Would you consider doing a viral stunt if someone asked you? Which ones would you do and not do?"

Model responsible online habits. Some parents are the ones recording their kids taking these challenges, so make sure your involvement sends the message you intend. Today it might be harmless, but tomorrow it might be more dangerous. Help your kids make the distinction so they can stay safe. Say, "Let's do a funny challenge together, but we'll only film it if you want to, and we'll only share it with family."

About Christine Elgersma

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Christine Elgersma wrangles learning and social media app reviews and creates parent talks as Senior Editor, Parent Education. Before coming to Common Sense, she helped cultivate and create ELA curriculum for a K-12 app... Read more

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Comments (12)

Adult written by B.U.

Thank you for posting. As a mother and educator, I was introduced last week to the Momo Challenge by my 6 y/o kindergartner. After picking her up from school and with undeniable concern in her voice, she informed me that at 12:00...she would die. When probed of the details, she mentioned the Momo Challenge. When I arrived at a different school the next day, I overheard other (older) students talking about the Momo Challenge; some students became visibly disturbed by the chants and the apparent resurfacing of this social media sensation. Evidently, I missed the first (or more) waves of the Momo Challenge. However, as I read the responses, I was reminded of words of wisdom when offered advice/opinions: "If you can use it (advice/opinion), keep it. If you can't use it, (discard) it. No need for negativity...life is too short and uncertain for that." So again...thank you Christine Elgersma for posting '13 Online Challenges Your Kid Already Knows About' and Common Sense Media for publishing helpful info/resources for those of us in human form who cannot possibly know everything...about everything at all times, even if it's old.
Adult written by MrGlenn

Even if the Momo challenge is misunderstood, I still think it's worth talking about because it is impacting our kids. I can tell you that my son (8) couldn't sleep because a friend at school showed him a video online (he said youtube) and the momo character popped out as a jump scare. He was very frightened and it was a concern of his for three or four days beyond the event. I wasn't concerned about him taking a dangerous challenge, but just the disturbing image was enough to upset him and frustrate me.
Adult written by Jsivaches

A little bit of clarification; a lot of these are forgotten and way past their prime. I mean the lip challenge? Backpack? Manniquin? Cinamon? A lot of these were popular years ago; the only one with any relevance now is try not to laugh. Also in the threat catagory the Creator of the blue whale was arrested, tide pod I haven't heard in ages, choking is the same, and the momo I'm not even sure exists or existed at all.
Parent of a 7 and 9 year old written by GladstoneMum

Are you sure the MOMO challenge is actually real and you are not just spreading fake news. According to an internet safety expert here in NZ there is no evidence that anyone (any adult) has seen this challenge and YouTube denies it exists. The image is everywhere at the moment but has anyone actually got hard evidence about the challenge - the more it’s discussed the more “real” it becomes when in all likelihood it’s an urban myth. It was raised by my sons school and when I talked to him about it he got upset but in further questioning he admitted he had never seen it or knew anyone who had. Let’s stop giving it airtime
Parent of a 9 year old written by Christine Elgersma

Thanks for your comment! It's absolutely true that there's no evidence and is likely just a meme that's resurfaced. Because of parents' concerns, we want to make sure we give balanced information about what we do know so the more sensationalized articles aren't the only sources of information available.
Parent of a 12 year old written by arey

Echoing the other commenters - well-intentioned parents and educators are actually spreading information about Momo, and the general idea of a suicide challenge. And worse, this appears to possibly be a hoax. YouTube just released a statement about this.
Parent written by AbleTec

Because this Momo challenge has been *so* sensationalized, it may put the blinders on for parents regarding other dangerous things. They feel like if they keep their kids away from that, then they're safe, whereas the truth is that there are a whole host of things out there that can cause harm to their kiddos. This article by Sophos (Naked Security lol) highlights that. https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Fsophos.us2.list-manage.com%2F... Christine has it right when she advocates that we as parent (& grandparents) stay up-to-date w/what's going on in our children's lives & talk to them in ways that cause them to think for themselves, rather than focusing on a specific viral-thing-of-the-moment. We should encourage them to share w/us things that trouble or frighten them, & we should not punish them for sharing they've done something we've told them not to do. They're likely experiencing far more consequences for doing so than we could ever impose.
Adult written by omniaki

Unfortunately, if the Momo Challenge wasn't shared and sensationalized by parents, it wouldn't have resurfaced this severely. Tons of parents asking their kids, "have you seen this?" results in them talking about it with peers and looking it up themselves. It starts to spread like wildfire.
Adult written by Jsivaches

I say just let stupid people be stupid. There's only so much others can do before we just have to let these idiots learn the hard way. Whether intentional or not internet trends always end up hurting at least one idiot. Now the ones like the blue whale (who's creator got arrested for it, killing the sadistic "challenge".) are a completely different story. They'll learn after a hospital visit but there's no need to learn if theyre dead.