Responding to Online Viral Challenges

Are your youth talking about a viral challenge or a new online urban legend? Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Youth Trends team is here to help! Find a printable one-page version of this content at the end of the post.

What are Viral Challenges?

With the rise of social media it can seem like fame is just a few clicks away. Recent years have seen the rise of online “challenges” that encourage youth to record themselves doing a task, then upload the video to a social media platform in hopes of it going “viral”. Going viral refers to an image, video, or link that spreads rapidly by being frequently shared with individuals across social media.

Some viral challenges can be used for good – raising awareness about an issue or raising funds for those in need. We’ve all seen things like the Ice Bucket Challenge benefiting the ALS Association or the Flint Water Challenge to raise awareness about unsafe drinking water.

Boys & Girls Clubs even have their own dance challenge- the #LikeAClubKid Challenge!

However, some challenges can be dangerous for those who participate, and may result in injury or even death. From jumping out of moving vehicles for a dance challenge to eating dangerous substances like detergent pods, many online challenges pose serious safety risks.

What to Do

The best way to prevent youth from participating in these dangerous challenges is to have an open conversation about online safety, peer pressure, and to be informed about current social media trends.

Here are some helpful tips for addressing online challenges with your youth, adapted from Common Sense Media:

  • Talk about it. Though we can’t always be with our youth to prevent dangerous behavior, you can make it known that you are available to talk. Have a conversation about the boundaries between fun and dangerous activities. Talk to youth about pranks and dares, and ask them if they’ve ever considered doing a viral challenge. Encourage them to check in with you or another trusted adult if they are ever feeling unsure about the safety of an online challenge.
  • Make them think. Encourage youth to think before they act. Suggest that they take a step back before agreeing to a dare or challenge, and ask themselves if the risk or potential consequences are worth it. Ask them to consider if they would want a video of them doing that challenge to live on the internet forever.
  • Acknowledge peer pressure. Remind youth that they are in control of their actions. They don’t have to do anything they don’t want to, even if peers pressure them or famous social media personalities are doing the challenge.
  • Stay up to date. Ask youth about what is happening in their lives – with friends, at school, at the Club, and online. Get a sense of the latest social media trends and try to determine if they are safe – if not, intervene.
  • Encourage online safety. Remind youth that they can flag, report, and block unsafe or unwanted content from social media channels. Encourage youth not to pass along challenges via social media if they encounter them.
  • Model responsible online habits. Sometimes adults are the ones recording videos of youth participating in challenge, so make sure your involvement sends the message you intend.

Additional Resources

Looking for more information about online safety? Check out these useful resources!

As always, BGCA’s Child & Club Safety hotline is available for 24/7 support: 886-607-SAFE (7233).

Viral Challenges
Click here to download a one-page PDF of this information

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