Daring other kids on the playground to do strange or potentially dangerous things is something we’ve all partaken in growing up. Small groups of kids would huddle around to see if little Johnny or Suzie would be willing to risk their reputation and possibly their health in order to complete some bizarre task designated by another child. If they successfully complete the task then the child who accepted the challenge has the potential of being labeled either cool or an idiot by the other children, there is no in between. Failure to complete the task, however, would deem the dared child a chicken, subsequently leaving zero chance of gaining any cool points with their peers.
Like most things, this timeless game of daring our friends to do dumb things has evolved for the internet age. Social media sites like YouTube and Facebook have given rise to the internet’s version of playground dares called challenges. Instead of five to ten kids huddled around on the playground, millions of people around the world have a chance to view somebody take on a seemingly impossible or strange task, making it a perfect opportunity for those seeking their 15 minutes of e-fame.
These challenges started out innocently enough. According to a timeline of internet challenges compiled by Vocativ, the saltine cracker challenge is believed to be the first of these internet dares to go viral. In this challenge, a person has to attempt to eat six saltine crackers within 60 seconds without water.
From those humble beginnings with crackers, a litany of slightly painful but relatively benign challenges were born. Suddenly the internet was taken by storm by new dares like the hot sauce challenge, the hot pepper challenge, and the bananas and Sprite challenge. By 2013, these challenges started to take a dangerous turn.
While some were partaking in the wildly successful ALS ice bucket challenge, which encouraged people to make a fool out of themselves for a cause, others were participating in something called the fire challenge. Kids were encouraged to cover themselves in flammable household products and then light themselves on fire while attempting to not be burned by the flames. As you could imagine, these challenges often ended badly. In 2014, a 15-year-old Lexington, Kentucky boy required medical treatment after having suffered severe burns to his chest and other areas of his body while attempting the challenge for himself.
Today we are seeing an equally as dangerous challenge on the rise. It’s called the hot water challenge.
In March of 2017, 8-year-old Ki’ari Pope was dared by her cousin to drink boiling hot water through a straw. The kids had recently watched videos of people online attempting similar stunts and thought it would be fun to attempt it themselves. After accepting this challenge, Ki’ari suffered severe burns to her mouth and throat. Months later, on July 30, 2017, Ki’ari succumbed to these injuries. It’s been reported that on the night of her death Ki’ari complained she was having trouble breathing shortly before falling unconscious. She was declared dead 40 minutes later.
The most recent injuries related to the challenge resulted in the arrest of a 12-year-old after she poured boiling water on her 11-year-old friend during a sleepover. The 12-year-old was charged with felony assault. The victim is currently being treated for severe burns covering her face, neck, and shoulders as a result of the prank. The prankster’s mother says it was a prank that had been taken too far.
“They always prank each other,” Shernett Panton told the NY Daily News. “My daughter was sleeping and Jamoni poured cold water on Aniya. My daughter was like, ‘OK, if you’re gonna do a prank on me, I’m gonna prank you back.’ But my daughter — I don’t know what she was thinking — boiled hot water and poured it on Jamoni’s face.”
While ultimately parents should be monitoring their children’s activities, unless you’re a helicopter parent it’s impossible to know exactly what your children are being exposed to at all times. It’s also impossible to police what other people’s children are watching and taking back to other kids on the playground and within their social circles. As a result of injuries stemming from these dumb and dangerous challenges, some are calling on the social media sites where these challenges originate from to actively police content and to pull them off the site before they go viral and have the opportunity injure more children.