The Milk Crate Challenge and Other Dares on Social Media

Teenagers love social media, and they love dares. Unfortunately, sometimes these can mix into a bad combination. Lately, TikTok in particular has had several dares or challenges go viral that are quite dangerous. In the “blackout challenge,” young people are encouraged to hold their breath until they pass out. In the “Benadryl challenge,” youth intentionally consume large amounts of the antihistamine to induce hallucinations. And most recently, in the “milk crate challenge,” participants attempt to climb a set of milk crates precariously stacked in the shape of a pyramid without toppling over. These challenges can result in serious injury.

The milk crate challenge is the most recent viral craze. The dare involves stacking milk crates in a pyramid so that they form steps. People try to climb up one side and down the other as the stacks get increasingly precarious. When they make a misstep or the balance isn’t exactly right, they fall to the ground, usually on top of the toppled crates.

As videos of people falling painfully go viral on social media and rack up millions of views, doctors across the US are coming out to warn people of the dangerous injuries that can occur. Doctors are warning people that the challenge could cause broken bones, dislocations, torn tendons, concussions, spinal injuries, and other head trauma. One doctor noted that this challenge has the highest potential for bodily injury that will take people out of their daily lives and could have lifelong implications. Complicating matters is that so many hospitals across the US are already overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients and running short on space and staff.

“It’s perhaps even worse than falling from a ladder,” said Shawn Anthony, an orthopedic surgeon at Mount Sinai hospital. “It’s very difficult to brace yourself from the falls I’ve seen in these videos. They’re putting their joints at an even higher risk for injury,” he added.

In the Benadryl challenge, which has been around for over a year now, teens are often taking as much as 10 times the normal dose of the medicine, generally used for allergies. When taken in such large does, Benadryl can cause seizures, psychosis, coma, and even death.

What Parents Can Do

Knowing that teenage risk-taking is normal doesn’t make it any easier to live with, but you can take steps to channel their teen’s risky behavior into something positive and reduce the chances of serious consequences. Here are some strategies to help address and reduce risky behavior:

Discuss the danger of social media challenges. Stay up to date on what the latest social media challenges are and discuss them with your teen. Try to start an open conversation where you ask your teen what they think about the dare, rather than just start lecturing about why it’s a bad idea. Let your teen know how and why something could go wrong with the dare. For example, with the milk crate challenge, you can talk about how head trauma from a fall can sometimes leave people with lifelong damage.

Encourage healthy risks. Try to guide your teen’s risk-taking tendencies towards more appropriate activities. There are plenty of safe and constructive risks that might satisfy your teen’s need for thrills without veering into dangerous territory. For some teens, simply trying new things or meeting new people can be a risk, while others might like an adrenaline-charged sport to get their thrill. Talk to your teen and suggest ideas, such as trying a new trick at the skate park, learning how to play a new instrument, expressing an unpopular opinion in class, taking up rock-climbing or another adventurous sport, or trying out for the school play.

Teach risk assessment. On an ongoing basis, use real life examples to explain other’s behaviors and consequences. Perhaps your neighbor lost his license because he drove drunk. You can discuss how he not only lost his license, but he won’t be able to keep his job since he can’t drive there, and the DUI will be on his record for any future employers to see. Teach your teen to evaluate real consequences to risky behaviors.

Teach life skills. Parents should work to instill positive character and life skills in their children. Discuss what makes a good leader, how to solve problems, and tips to be assertive. Teens armed with these qualities will develop a sense of responsibility and be more likely to make positive decisions.

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