Last month it was the #CharlieCharlieChallenge. Before that it was the #KylieJennerLipChallenge. And now? The #BellyButtonChallenge.
It seems as though there is a new hashtag-labelled, social media challenge happening each month.
Teenagers are most likely to participate in and spread these social media challenges in part because of their age, which makes them prone to experiment, and in part because of their deep relationship with social media. Teens are connected and curious - a perfect storm for a hashtagged challenge.
Some of them are mostly harmless - as was the case with the #CharlieCharlieChallenge. The #CharlieCharlieChallenge mirrored popular slumber party games (like Ouija boards) and ghost stories from days past, with a social media twist.
Other hashtagged challenges are a little more insidious, as was the case with last year's #CinnamonChallenge that took off on YouTube, hospitalizing several participants, and the more recent instagram fueled #KylieJennerLipChallenge and #KylieJennerChallenge which at last look have yielded over 200,000 posts, many involving tweens and teens engaging in risky behavior.
The #KylieJennerChallenge encouraged participants to create full lips like Kylie Jenner's by using a shot glass and suction to induce swelling. This experiment had several challenge participants seeking medical attention after causing themselves serious injury.
The latest - the #BellyButtonChallenge, presents a risk because it invites participants to test themselves (presumably a test of weight and fitness) to see whether they can wrap and arm behind their back, around their waist and still touch their belly button. In fact this is more a test of flexibility and arm length, than fitness.
Medical experts have warned against #TheBellyButtonChallenge being a tipping factor for teens at risk of an eating disorder, and for that reason, parents need to know about it.
These internet challenges seem to cycle monthly and it's easy for a parent to be left in the dark.
If you are curious about a hashtag your teenage has used or told you about their friends, or people that they follow using, do a little research. You can get a free snapshot of a hashtag's recent use at sites like Hashtracking.com.
But more importantly, you should be talking to your teens and preteens about hashtagged challenges on social media. It's important to have conversations now, and continue to check in frequently if your kids are active on social media platforms. Silly human tricks, and faddish trends come and go, but you want to stay on top of anything that is potentially dangerous!
In case you are wondering - I completely failed the #BellyButtonChallenge. But when the #TouchYourNoseWithYourTongue one goes viral, I'm sure to rule again!
Disclosure: I am a founder of Hashtracking.com, which explains my obsession with hashtags. This post contains my opinions and is not sponsored in any way
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