Frame from a YouTube video on 'neknomination'
The Irish Mirror calls it "sickening online drinking craze," and that's factually correct. "Nekominate," also known as neck and nominate, is a game that's growing in popularity in Australia, the UK and parts of Europe where someone posts a video of themselves doing something stupid or dangerous and then "nominates" another person to stick his or her neck out and do likewise. I'm actually taking liberties with the the term. On Facebook it's defined as "neck your drink, nominate another." I'm hearing that the game is starting to take up residence in the United States.
I've also seen derivations on the theme with added dangerous or stupid behaviors such as guzzling a beer in a university lecture hall or a crowded intersection while naked.
My concern here is not-so-much the exhibitionism but the severe health dangers associated with guzzling alcohol.
The Mirror, a British tabloid reported about a 29 year-old who died as a result of quickly downing a pint of Vodka. The Mirror isn't the most credible newspaper in the world, but this is likely a true story. It's well known in medical circles that guzzling alcohol is dangerous as is binge drinking which is associated with guzzling. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on a case that I'm personally familiar with where a college freshman died while drinking large amounts of blackberry brandy during a fraternity ceremony at Chico State University.
New twist on a very old theme
Young people often crave social acceptance and inclusion and sometimes accept dares as a way to "fit in." When I was a kid, I was dared to walk across the railing over a bridge where -- if I slipped -- I would likely fall to my death. I never did it, but friends of mine did and I always felt uncomfortable every time I had to "chicken out" and decline the dare. Beer pong, which has been around for a long-time, can also be dangerous.
For adults, it's sometimes hard to know how to convince kids to avoid what we consider dangerous behaviors but -- when it comes to something this dangerous -- we do need to speak out. Despite popular belief, kids do listen to adults, especially their parents. And while they may roll their eyes when you bring it up, it doesn't mean they're not listening. BUT -- and this is an important but. Don't make it a lecture. Start by asking your kids if they've heard about Neknomination and what they think about it. Chances are if they have, they'll volunteer that it's stupid but even if they don't, it gives you an opportunity to calmly explain the risks.
"Just say know"
Dr. Irene Lazarus, a Chapel Hill, NC-based marriage and family therapist recommends "finding a non-threatening way to bring it up so that the kids can think about it before they're presented with the opportunity." She added, "Kids who are shy in social relationships may be more vulnerable to taking a dare like that. Peer pressure is strong but if you can have discussions, kids can have time to think through their stance is before they are faced with the situation."
Dr. Lazarus recommends the book Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy. One chapter title of that book says it all, "Just say know." As the book points out, "phrases like 'just say no' are not sufficient to satisfy many young people."
Facebook page for 'Random Acts of Kindness'
There is an antidote being promoted on Facebook called RAKNomination with "RAK," standing for "Random Acts of Kindness." The page's tagline is "record yourself carrying out a RAK and nominate your friends to do the same in 24 hours." The page, which has been "Liked" by 13,690 people as of today, contains stories of great things people are doing for others.
For more on both Nek and RAK nominations as well as how you can "unnominate" yourself, see Choosing stupidity or kindness: 'Neknominate' or 'RAKnominate'? by Anne Collier, my ConnectSafely.org co-director.