Is It Safe To Participate In Online Challenges Seen On Social Media?


With social media’s growing popularity, challenges that encourage users to partake in various activities, often involving risky behavior, have become a common occurrence.

The appeal of Online Challenges

These digital dares often capture the imagination due to their novelty or entertainment factor. Teens and young adults are particularly drawn to these activities, lured by the prospect of social recognition, temporary fame, or simply peer pressure. The perception of these challenges can lead to undue risks, which may lead to serious injury, psychological harm, or even death in extreme cases. It is critical to examine their safety implications.

Scope of Social Media Challenges

Challenges can range from harmless fun, such as the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ which raised awareness for ALS, to highly risky activities such as the ‘Tide Pod Challenge’, where participants were encouraged to consume laundry detergent pods. The latter has been connected to numerous poisonings and even deaths. Evaluating the safety of a challenge involves understanding its context, the potential outcomes, and the risks involved.

Evaluating the Potential Risks

Evaluating the risks associated with these challenges is complex and dependent on various factors. At times, the risk might seem minimal or non-existent, such as the ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge’. However, even challenges seemingly harmless can have unintended consequences. For example, pouring a bucket of ice water over one’s head can cause shock, hypothermia, or injury due to a fall. Hence, it’s critical to fully understand the risks involved before partaking in any challenge.

The Risk of Virality

The rate at which certain challenges become viral adds another layer of complexity when weighing the risks. A challenge may start as a local or minor trend but can rapidly escalate to a global phenomenon due to the algorithmic nature of social media platforms. This potential for virality can increase the number of participants who potentially face harm, thus amplifying the risks associated with a particular challenge.

Role of Online Communities

Despite many challenges holding potential harm, the role of online communities can also be harnessed to promote safety. Users can report unsafe content and create discourse about the potential risks associated with a certain challenge. Platforms themselves have a responsibility to monitor and mitigate these risks. They have the potential to moderate content, limit the visibility of harmful challenges, and disseminate information about the dangers associated with unsafe practices.

Promoting Safe Online Behaviour

Encouraging safe online behavior is key to ensuring user safety while partaking in online challenges. Users should critically assess each challenge, consider the potential risks, and refrain from participating in activities which can lead to harm. Parents and educators also play a crucial role in guiding young internet users through this process, emphasizing the importance of digital safety and literacy.