Parents are sounding the alarm on a dangerous new TikTok trend called the #SkullbreakerChallenge.
The challenge involves two people standing on either side of an unknowing victim who is instructed to jump in the air. While in the air, the two challengers kick the person’s feet out from under them, causing them to fall backwards.
The trick often results in the victim slamming the back of their head onto the ground, and it has sent at least one 12-year-old child to hospital.
Parker Smith was at the Ozark Boys and Girls Club in Alabama when two other kids tricked him into participating, according to his mom, Teri Smith. He didn’t hurt his head, but he broke his wrist.
“He didn’t really know what TikTok was, so he wasn’t prepared and had no idea what was happening,” Smith said in an interview with local news station WSFA 12 News.
After her son’s accident, Smith wants to warn other parents about the challenge.
“All these little games they see on the internet always fun,” she said. “You have to think about what could happen. Kids aren’t going to think about that.”
Unfortunately, social media challenges like this one are growing increasingly common. If you have a child on social media, they could be at risk of attempting something life-threatening.
“We have to remember that our kids are digital natives … we’ve given them this extra backpack (a phone) that they carry around with them, and it’s loaded with tools,” Mojit Rajhans, a Toronto-based media professional and member of the collective Dadspotting, previously told Global News.
Just because they have the tools doesn’t mean they know how to use them, and that’s where they need parental guidance.
But before even starting a conversation about social media and the peer pressure that could be lurking there, Rajhans said, you have to know about the media your kids are consuming.
Try the same apps as your kids
For Rajhans, the first step to parenting children in the digital age is accepting that social media is part of the deal.
“I realized that if I don’t understand the medium they’re on, I can’t tell them what they can and can’t do,” he said. “Gone are the days of saying to people ‘Don’t post this.’”
The turning point for Rajhans and his three children, aged 13, 10 and nine, was the dance-based Shiggy Challenge.
“We’re fans of hip hop music in general and the song was good … and the challenge was cute, because it was about a dance,” he said.
“But then, when people started to jump out of their cars and do the dance, that’s when we started to have that conversation about what people are doing for validity versus doing something to participate.”
The social media life cycle
When it comes to life-threatening challenges, it’s important to put the risk in perspective for young people.
Start by asking them why they want to participate in something that could be dangerous.
Questions like, “what are you trying to gain by this?” and “why is it so important for you to ‘go viral?'” could open the door to a more serious conversation, parenting expert Samantha Kemp-Jackson previously told Global News.
It can also be helpful to explain that, like everything else, this internet trend will also pass.
There are three opposing forces working on your kids in 2020, said Rajhans: you, the parent, saying “I don’t get it, try not to do it;” your child’s “natural need” to find validity on social media, and the ecosystem of social media.
“Parents can only do one of two things — we either turn a blind eye and we’re ignorant … or we get in the trenches and offer education,” he said.
To that end, parents need to at least try to understand what it’s like to be a young person on apps like TikTok. Only then can they communicate effectively about peer pressure and how to mitigate it.
“You don’t teach your kids how to swim if you don’t know how to swim,” Rajhans said.
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