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Business News/ News / World/  13 yr old dies of TikTok's Benadryl challenge; here are other dangerous challenges parents should know
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13 yr old dies of TikTok's Benadryl challenge; here are other dangerous challenges parents should know

The Benadryl Challenge encourage users on the platform to take a large dosage of the medicine to experience hallucinations.

A 13-year-old boy from Ohio state of United States died after ingesting 12 to 14 pills of Benadryl (Image: Reuters)Premium
A 13-year-old boy from Ohio state of United States died after ingesting 12 to 14 pills of Benadryl (Image: Reuters)

TikTok, a popular video sharing application has a massive young user fan base. With its huge fan base, the video sharing app has always been under scanner for its dangerous challenges which pose threat to life. The app, which boasts more than one billion active users, is regularly accused of spreading disinformation, putting users in danger with hazardous "challenge" videos, and allowing pornography, even though it is supposed to prohibit nudity. In the recent case, a 13-year-old boy from Ohio state of United States died after ingesting 12 to 14 pills of Benadryl, an antihistamine as part of the "Benadryl Challenge" on the social media platform TikTok. 

What is Benadryl Challenge? 

The "Benadryl Challenge" encourage users on the platform to take a large dosage of the medicine to experience hallucinations. As part of the challenge, Jacob Stevens ingested the pills while his friends shot him on camera. According to Jacob's father, Justin Stevens, who spoke to ABC6, his son had overdosed while being in the company of his friends at home. Allegedly, a video captured by his companions depicted the teenager experiencing convulsions after attempting the social media challenge. The "Benadryl challenge" is not something new and US Food and Drug Administration is warning against the challenge since 2020, with several cases of medicine overdose cropping up.

This is not the first time such a dangerous TikTok trend caused loss of life. In the past, many trending challenges posed threat. 

Some dangerous TikTok challenges

Blackout challenge: Several children have reportedly died while trying to replicate the so-called blackout challenge, which involves users holding their breath until they pass out. A 10-year-old girl suffocated herself doing a so-called "blackout challenge" from videos posted on the app. In December 2021, Nylah Anderson attempted the blackout challenge using a purse strap hung in her mother's closet, losing consciousness and suffering severe injuries, according to the lawsuit. She was rushed to a hospital but died five days later. In May 2022, girl's mother, Tawainna Anderson sued TikTok and its Chinese parent company ByteDance Inc saying the company's algorithm showed her daughter a video suggesting the blackout challenge. As per the November 2022 Bloomberg Businessweek report, the blackout challenge linked to the deaths of at least 15 children from age 12 or younger in the 18 months. As per Sportskeeda report, Blackout challenge existed long before TikTok and has claimed about 82 live between 1996 and 2007 in the US. Skull breaker challenge: The Skul breaker challenge involved three people in the act. The two people on the side jump first and then the person in between the two will do the same. However, when the person in the middle jumps, the two on the other side kick back of his leg making him fall on the ground on his back. The skullbreaker challenge, also known as the "tripping jump challenge" reportedly injured several people in US and Europe. According to the Mirror, a student was hospitalised after sustaining wrist injury while performing the challenge. Many cases of head injury were reported. In 2020, a young boy from Arizona was rushed to hospital after he sustained a head injury, severe cuts in his mouth. Some media reports showed that a teen from Brazil lost her life due to the viral challenge.

Apart from this, another social media challenge that posed threat to life was the Kiki challenge. The challenge involved people jumping out of their moving car and dancing to the In My Feelings song by Drake. Police from India, Spain, US, and many other countries warned against this challenge and also imposed criminal charges on people trying to perform the challenge. 

Recently, Mexican authorities had warned about the dangers of a viral TikTok challenge that has left school students intoxicated after taking a controlled medication. With the slogan "The last one to fall asleep wins," the challenge consists of trying to stay awake after taking clonazepam, a drug used to treat seizures, panic attacks and anxiety. Paramedics in Mexico city treated about five intoxicated minors at a school.

Another death threatening TikTok Challenge called the The Fire Challenge makes people lit their body on fire after applying inflammable substance. This challenge caused many children cause first, second or even third degree burns. Other dangerous challenges included the Penny challenge, Cha Cha Slide challenge, back cracking challenge, salt challenge etc.

What has TikTok said on these dangerous trends?

In March 2023, US lawmakers at a congressional hearing accused TikTok of serving harmful content and inflicting "emotional distress" on young users, grilling the Chinese-owned app's CEO on the company's outsized influence on teens. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican from Washington, kicked off the hearing with TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew saying that within minutes of creating an account on TikTok, the content algorithm promotes self-harm and eating disorder content, and encourages "dangerous" challenges that can put kids' lives at risk. Chew, in his first appearance before Congress, testified that while the "vast majority" of TikTok users are over the age of 18, the company has invested in measures to protect young people who use the app. Chew later said during the hearing that content such as dangerous challenges were prohibited from TikTok. TikTok said it has rolled out more parental control tools recently, and earlier this month it said that it was in the early stages of developing a feature that would let parents to block their teens from seeing videos that contain certain words or hashtags.  

Italy too had opened an investigation for failing to enforce its own rules on removing "dangerous content" related to suicide and self-harm. The Italian Competition Authority said its probe, which targets Irish company TikTok Technology Limited, a subsidiary of Chinese-owned TikTok, was sparked by videos of young people "adopting self-harming behaviour", including the "French scar challenge". In the challenge, children pinch their cheeks violently to create bruising, a phenomenon explained by numerous tutorials on TikTok that has caused concern in the education and health sectors.

Also Read: Vietnam to ban Tiktok? All you need to know as country probes 'toxic' content

Ban on TikTok

TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, has been under intense scrutiny over worries it could hand over user data to the Chinese government or push pro-Beijing propaganda and misinformation on the platform. US's Montana gave final passage to a bill banning the social media app TikTok from operating in the state, a move that's bound to face legal challenges but also serve as a testing ground for the TikTok-free America many national lawmakers envision due to concerns over potential Chinese spying. In 2020, India had banned the application along with other Chinese application due to security concerns. However, same is not the case with Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the application is banned for its alleged role in spreading obscenity and unethical values among users. Taliban-led Afghanistan banned the app citing the reason that it leads youths “astray". Taiwan has banned the application due to its illegal operation in the island. TikTok has been banned from government device in the US, UK and Cananda. 

TikTok's increasing user base

With more than one billion active users, TikTok is the sixth most used social platform in the world, according to the We Are Social marketing agency. Although it lags behind the likes of Meta's long-dominant trio of Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, its growth among young people far outstrips its competitors. Almost a third of TikTok users are between 10 and 19 years old, according to the Wallaroo agency. TikTok's active user base is expected to increase by 50% in two years. Its 1 billion global monthly active users has expected rose to 1.05 billion in January 2023, according to the Kepios analysis mentioned in DataReportal website.

The analysis also showed that expected 1.05 billion of active monthly users of the application are of 18 years and above. The average age of a TikTok user is between 18 and 24 years. Further categorisation of TikTok users on the basis of their age shows that the social media app has 409.1 mn users aged 18 to 24, 340.3 mn users aged 25 to 34, 64.5 mn users aged 35 to 44, 83.6 mn users aged 45 to 54, and 53.9 mn users aged 55 and above. Which means TikTok enjoys a massive share of young population as its audience.

(With inputs from agencies)

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Published: 19 Apr 2023, 06:03 PM IST
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