What are internet challenges, hoaxes, and urban legends?
The internet gives youth access to tons of information, including misinformation and fake news.
Many fake news or satirical news websites, such as The Onion, share “news stories” and intentionally post hoaxes and misinformation. The challenges, hoaxes, and urban legends range from putting peppermint lip balm on your eyelids to create a buzzed sensation to eating liquid laundry detergent pods because they resemble candy.
The point is that there’s a lot of misinformation online, and sometimes youth don’t know what is real and what isn’t. They may not truly know what is safe and what is dangerous.
At Shape the Sky, we’re sharing some challenges, hoaxes, and urban legends you should be aware of so you can educate your children about these potentially dangerous trends.
Speaking With Youth About Internet Challenges, Hoaxes, and Urban Legends
It’s necessary to talk to your children about challenges, hoaxes, and urban legends to help them understand why it’s dangerous. Ask your children about what they see online and help them understand why a particular behavior could be dangerous.
When talking to them, you should acknowledge that they may feel peer pressure to participate to fit in, but it should never come at the cost of anyone’s health, safety, or feelings, including their own. They also need to know that they can go to an adult and talk about it without "getting in trouble."
Challenges, Hoaxes, and Urban Legends
Learn about challenges, hoaxes, and urban legends that were trending online or on social media.
The Momo Challenge is not new and has been circulating since approximately 2018. People reported that a user named Momo enticed youth to perform dangerous acts, such as violent attacks, self-harm, and suicide. Reputable tech blogger, Larry Magid, wrote a column explaining the nature of it and his concerns about misinformation spreading and leaving people worried.
Blue Whale Challenge
The concept of the Blue Whale challenge was to do a scary task every day for 50 days, and on the last day of the “challenge,” you were supposed to commit suicide. Despite these being the “rules” of the challenge, there are no confirmed suicides linked to this “challenge.”
Tide Pod Challenge
You’ve probably heard of this challenge where people recorded themselves eating a Tide Pod and uploaded it to YouTube. Many children are aware that this is not a wise idea, but they are curious and watch this “challenge” on YouTube. YouTube has since taken down videos of youth participating in dangerous challenges.
Bird Box Challenge
The Bird Box Challenge came as a result of the Netflix movie Bird Box. In the movie, the characters cover their eyes to protect themselves from an unidentified psychological event that can end your life if you open your eyes outdoors. Some have completed this challenge by blindfolding themselves in dangerous situations, such as driving a car.
Salt & Ice Challenge
The Salt and Ice Challenge is where individuals place salt on their skin and then ice to create a burning sensation. This dangerous challenge can cause second and third-degree burn injuries.
The "Choking Game" or "Blackout Challenge"
The Choking Game or Blackout Challenge is where children use a rope or belt around their neck to block blood flow to the brain to get a euphoric feeling when the blood rushes back to the brain. This “game” is very dangerous, and some children have died from it. Additionally, research shows that depressed youth may be more likely to participate in the challenge.
This challenge involves eating a teaspoon of cinnamon in a minute. Because cinnamon does not dissolve in water, and presumably saliva, it’s difficult to swallow. There are medical concerns around the cinnamon challenge, and some children have ended up in the hospital because of it.
The Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge
This challenge appeared in 2015 when youth inserted their lips into a shot glass or water bottle and inhaled to create a vacuum. The goal of this “challenge” is to make their lips plump like Kylie Jenner. Doctors have warned against this behavior, as it can cause bruises, soreness, and torn skin.
The Fire Challenge is where a person puts flammable liquid on their body and lights themselves on fire with water nearby to extinguish the fire. This is obviously a concern for safety, permanent body damage, and even death. One youth who did this “challenge” is advising others not to do this.
Hot Pepper Challenge
The Hot Pepper Challenge was a challenge on YouTube where individuals would eat a ghost pepper, which is one of the hottest peppers in the world. This challenge is incredibly dangerous — one man tore his esophagus and spent 23 days in the hospital after eating ghost peppers in an eating contest.
The 48-Hour Challenge, formally known as the 72-Hour Challenge or Game of 72, is where a youth will run away for 48 hours to get their picture on social media and the news. This is considered an urban legend, and some sources say it’s a fake challenge.
Peppermint Chapstick Challenge
The peppermint chapstick challenge consists of putting peppermint chapstick on your eyelids (most children used Burt’s Bees chapstick) to feel buzzed. According to Snopes, this challenge is false; it isn’t possible to get high by rubbing chapstick on your eyelids.
Smoking Bed Bugs Challenge
In this challenge, students are crushing bed bugs and smoking and injecting them to get high because of their apparently hallucinogenic substance. According to Snopes, this story was just a hoax and an April Fool’s Day prank.
Snorting Condoms Challenge
The snorting condom challenge was a social media challenge around 2013. On YouTube, youth would inhale condoms through their nostrils and pull it out through their mouth. According to Snopes, this challenge is mostly false, meaning very few have taken part in this challenge and it was never widespread.
Vodka-Infused Tampon Challenge
In 2009, there were rumors that young girls and women were soaking their tampons in vodka to become intoxicated. According to Snopes, this trend is false. While there’s been talk of this trend for years, it’s only a rumor and people participating in this challenge is very rare.
According to a social media post, tilapia is a boneless fish that contains dioxin which can lead to cancer and take up to eleven years to clear from your body once consumed. According to Snopes, this information is false — tilapia do have bones and there are no claims to support its extreme claims.
Fact Checking Websites
With a lot of false information and satirical news spreading the internet, it can be difficult to know which challenges, hoaxes, and urban legends are actually real and which ones are fake. Use these resources to help you know fact from fiction.
Snopes is a fact checking website and good place to start if you want to validate something you see online. You can search challenges, hoaxes, and urban legends, and Snopes will provide you with more information such as when it started circulating.
Fake News Websites
If you see a news article that looks a little off, chances are it’s fake. Check the source to see a list of fake news sites.
Satirical posts about current events can be deceiving. Check the source before believing what you see. Check out this source to see a list of satirical news websites.