Young people are often drawn to bravery challenges that sometimes they can become really dangerous, and that these days they are even more difficult to control than before.
Holding your breath on camera or strangling yourself to pass out are some examples. The call fainting game -also known as b.blackout challenge– is just one of the dangerous trends spreading through social media.
A dead teenager and another hospitalized for a TikTok challenge: this is the dangerous “Blackout Challenge” that teenagers practice
From the point of view of psychologist Michael Thiel, these challenges (challenges) are also tests of bravery. In an interview, this German expert who works with children, young people and families explains what is hidden behind them and how parents can protect their children.
What is it that leads young people to get involved in this type of tests?
Michael Thiel: Precisely among pubescent young people it is always a question of raising the oscillating self-esteem on the one hand. And, on the other, also it is about belonging (to a group). “I want to be part of the community. And if a bravery challenge is necessary, I will rise to it.” Young people, in particular, crave attention, rewards, praise, and a feeling of belonging. And also be special. These value tests are actually submission tests: one submits to peer pressure. The truly brave would refuse and clearly say “no!”
A new way that these challenges are adapted are the so-called challenges, which can be found on the Internet. For example, one of these challenges is to have lost a certain amount of weight in a period of time.
Or the roofingwhich revolves around climbing and perching without security on skyscrapers and construction sites. The transition between challenge and test of bravery is seamless.
The proofs of value that take place today often have one goal: to be recorded with the phone, to be broadcast on the internet and to get the corresponding attention and clicks.
This immediate comparison in a matter of seconds has never been easier thanks to our technique than it is now, with the numbers of clicks and followers immediately revealing whether or not the initiative was successful.
Did these tests of value become more dangerous with social networks, for example TikTok?
Thiel: Yes, everything has reached a different quality. Tests of bravery are less controllable through social networks. When one of these challenges was done before, then one was related to real people. And probably the group helped when something went wrong.
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But today, the challenges are done in isolation. The young man is sitting, alone, in his bedroom and begins – stimulated by the Internet and others – to develop ideas on how he can perform the best tests of value. So maybe he manipulates himself or puts his own health at risk with weight loss challenges.
If value tests are less controllable today, then how can adults provide protection?
Thiel: I would like parents, long before puberty, to encourage their children to devote themselves to their abilities and talents. If, for example, someone is good at sports and is promoted in a club, then they can find their challenges and their confirmation in a relatively safe environment. Children can find there the sources for their own self-esteem and show how good they are.
It is important, therefore, maintain continuous contact with the child from before puberty and build a secure bond. In general, if a young person feels respected and loved, the need for confirmation from outside the family is often less.
Family discussions, for example during joint meals, about the dangers and the child’s own experiences, but also about his successes and abilities, also stabilize the child’s self-esteem and give him a realistic view of possible dangers.
And even when, at puberty, the opinion of the gang or the group is perhaps more important than that of the parents, the youngster will not directly turn to these dangerous challenges, because he has the enough courage to say no.
But, should one of these dangerous challenges occur, don’t panic and show your own concern, but calmly explain the parent’s point of view as realistically and honestly as possible. As a rule, these are network challenges that quickly disappear again.
Parents should also make it clear to their child: “Here you crossed a line, I care about you and your health. If you want to do something that seems strange to you, then come to me and we’ll talk about it.”
Young people often want to decide for themselves. But if they have contact and trust with their parents, it increases the possibility that they will seek advice when they feel insecure.
The role of parents: building a healthy brain
Parents can help their children in their intellectual development. Talk to them about the challenges, instead of simply forbidding them to mention it or to do it. Let them argue. Calmly ask them what they think of the challenges. Talk about the possible consequences and who would have to pay for them, what would be needed in the event that their physical or mental integrity were injured. Yes, set clear limits and the sanctions that there will be if they are trespassed.
If your child shows interest in a certain challenge, break down each step of that activity, ask them what the worst outcome would be, and what they would do once this happened. Also ask them what they would gain if they were as successful as expected, and if the likes would compensate for the visit to the emergency room.
Yes, be ‘friends’ with your kids on social media and see their posts, who rates them, who replies to them. It is a way of knowing what happens in their day to day, but also which people are showing interest in them, at least openly.
Sometimes guys prefer to talk about their friends more than themselves. Listen, and ask along those lines, what other children are doing, what’s new in the day, you may get better results than simply asking what you did or how it went. (F)
Mario Twitchell is an accomplished author and journalist, known for his insightful and thought-provoking writing on a wide range of topics including general and opinion. He currently works as a writer at 247 news agency, where he has established himself as a respected voice in the industry.