Challenges at TikTok, YouTube & Co.

What is a challenge on social media? Children and young people are repeatedly confronted with tests of courage online, in which participants film themselves. They share their video clips via video platforms such as YouTube and TikTok , hoping for likes and thus recognition. Many of these contests trend in places and then spread rapidly on social media. They range from harmless challenges to risky challenges that can cause serious damage to health.

Many people have been familiar with the phenomenon of internet challenges since the "ALS Ice Bucket Challenge" went viral worldwide in 2014. The challenge consisted of pouring a bucket of cold water over your head. You were then asked to nominate three people. They were also asked to take on this challenge within 24 hours. The performance and nomination were filmed and uploaded to YouTube or sent via WhatsApp or Facebook . Many people took part. Those who did not accept the challenge were asked to donate 100 euros/US dollars to the ALS Association for research into the nerve disease ALS.

Harmless fun or problematic self-endangerment?

Since the Ice Bucket Challenge, there have been many other challenges that have gone viral around the world. Challenges often have the character of an invitation. Other people are specifically nominated and thus challenged to take part. Even without a nomination, popular challenges spread quickly on social media and find many imitators. These include fitness exercises such as the "Plank Challenge" or skill tasks such as the "Bottle Cap Challenge".

However, challenges that encourage risky and unhealthy behavior are also becoming increasingly popular. These include, for example, the so-called Hot Chip Challenge or One Chip Challenge, in which extremely hot chips have to be eaten. Or fainting tests of courage such as the Blackout Challenge or the Pilot Test.

Our teaching unit "Challenges - All in good fun??" offers educational professionals a variety of ideas for working on the topic of challenges with children and young people.

When should caution be exercised?

In the time before the Internet, tests of courage were a typical behavior of many young people as part of their development. The ambition was to measure themselves against others or to prove themselves by overcoming unpleasant feelings. An important incentive for this was recognition within their peer group.

Images of burns, scars or bleeding wounds can lower inhibitions and encourage unhealthy behavior. Even if children and adolescents do not actively participate in dangerous challenges. Particular caution is needed when dealing with eating disorders or the topic of suicide: Children and adolescents in crisis situations can be further destabilized by the portrayal of dangerous behaviors.

Self-harm as a trend?

In its annual report 2019, jugendschutz.net states an increase of 77 percent in self-harming online content. The report "Selbstgefährdung im Netz 2020" (Self-harm online 2020) provides more detailed information on the dimensions and trends of self-harming content online, in addition to violations and measures.

What to do in case of dangerous challenges?

Support children and young people in recognizing and correctly assessing the risks of challenges:

  • Stay in regular contact with children and young people to find out which dares are currently in vogue.
  • Discuss that there are also many fakes circulating among risky challenges. Encourage children and young people to critically question the actions shown.
  • Encourage children and young people not to put themselves or others in danger and not to give in to peer pressure when asked to do so.
  • Communicate that spreading dangerous challenges can endanger others.
  • Inform other parents and class administrators if dangerous challenges are circulating among friends or at school.
  • Self-harming internet challenges should be reported to internet-complaints-agency.com or jugendschutz.net as well as the corresponding online platform
  • Do not warn by posting or sharing the dangerous Challenges. This can lead to the challenges being spread further.
  • Do not condemn challenges across the board and help interested children and young people find safe challenges.

Counseling centers for those seeking help

  • Nummer gegen Kummer e. V. offers anonymous and free telephone counseling for children, young people and parents.
    Children's and young people 's phone: 116 111, Mon. to Sat. from 2 - 8 p.m. and Mon., Wed. and Thurs. from 10 - 12 p.m.
    Parents' phone: 0800 - 111 0 550, Mon. to Fri. from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tues. and Thurs. from 5 - 7 p.m.
  • youth.support is an advice and help service for children aged 12 and over and young people. The website has a special section on challenges & where you can find tips and offers of help.
  • JUUUPORT is a nationwide advice platform where young people can help each other if they have problems on or with the Internet. Whether cyberbullying, rip-offs, data security or technology - young people can ask questions about all web topics at www.juuuport.de.