20 january 2020
Challenges are not a new concept, but in recent years they have gained even more popularity. What are they about? What makes you decide to take part in them? Is it possible to define them as something completely wrong?
The majority of us like competition. It is a desire to try yourself, looking for the answer whether I can do it or not. Challenges used to appear in closed groups - among friends at school, in the backyard, in the family, etc. Thanks to global access to the Internet, we have the opportunity to communicate with people from all over the world. Therefore, it is possible to take part in any challenge. Not only with someone you know but also with people, you don’t know very well or not at all.
The network offers various types of challenges, from innocent ones, like uploading a childhood photo, reading several books at a specific time, through those related to charity, to dangerous challenges that threaten the health and lives of its participants. To become a participant in the online challenge you must complete the task and prove it by taking a photo or recording a video from the attempt. Then you have to upload it to the network and tag it appropriately. Afterwards, you can simply observe the reactions of viewers, expressed through likes or comments.
What motivates us to take part in the challenge? It can be, for example, willingness to join a certain community or participate in something popular or even global. We should remember, however, that children or young people perceive the world differently from adults. Young people, especially those with low self-esteem, usually want to show that they are courageous and deserve the acceptance of their peers by participating in the challenge. They see challenges as a pass to a previously unavailable group of friends. Children are often uncritical toward tasks in challenges, and these can be dangerous to them.
Is a challenge something unacceptable or wrong? Not always. Often, challenges are used to promote appropriate attitudes or behaviour. They can raise awareness of important social problems. Challenges that are a threat to life and health are the problem. The younger or emotionally immature the person encountering such a challenge is, the risk of unpleasant consequences increases.
It is worth paying attention to the role of the media in spreading the popularity of online challenges. The more people talk about a certain challenge, the more intriguing and popular it becomes. Often false or unverified information can create a real threat. This was the case with the Blue whale.
In 2017, the media began to write about the so-called ‘online game’ that reached Poland from Russia and threatened Polish children. According to media reports, it involved doing 50 tasks within 50 days. Each task had to be documented and sent to a guardian in the game. Among them were challenges such as watching horror movies, listening to psychedelic music, isolation, self-harm. The last task was a suicide attempt. The participants were teenagers - people susceptible to influence that can be manipulated. According to media reports, some suicide attempts related to this phenomenon took place in Russia. Similar information appeared in Poland. Polish media copied a report from an English tabloid, unfortunately almost nobody checked the sources. The portals carelessly copied information and created a sensation.
It is the media buzz around the subject that has taken its toll. Children and young people exchanged information about further horrible challenges, as well as alleged victims who did not complete them. There have been cases of self-harm among children, but the police have not confirmed the actual impact of the online challenge on the child suicide rate.
The Blue whale theme was number one for several weeks. This phenomenon has undoubtedly appeared on the Internet, but without the media, it would not have gained such popularity.
The problem was the lack of awareness and imprecise messages in which parents or teachers often heard about an online game (a game that is played online), rather than an online challenge. They were asking questions about why this game was not withdrawn from sale if it is dangerous? Why can't it be blocked on a computer? Unfortunately, it was not specified that this is a social phenomenon, and that the Internet is only a new medium that allows for virtually unlimited interpersonal contacts. A real threat has been created. It was similar to the Fire Fairy or Momo Doll.
Blue whale, Fire Fairy and similar are types of urban legends. Our grandparents had already heard such legends, before the internet age. A perfect example would be the black Volga that electrified society in the 1960s and 1970s. According to stories told, a black limousine abducted small children.
We should not carelessly believe in any information that we find on the Internet. The so-called fake news is the scourge of our time.
Examples of various challenges you can find online (positive and dangerous ones):
This challenge tries to motivate people to stay offline and not to use a smartphone and social media for some time. The challenge draws our attention to the growing problem of compulsive use of the Internet, especially among children and young people. UKE’s consumer research confirms that almost 90% of children aged 7-15 regularly use the internet. Also, NASK conducted the "Teenagers 3.0" survey, which shows that over 93% of children aged 13-17 are available online all the time.
The challenge is to save the environment and clean up after others. The participant has to find a dirty or cluttered place and take a picture of it. Their task is to clean it. The second photo should present the effect of the cleaning. This challenge promotes ecological attitudes and draws attention to the problem of littering.
Ice Bucket Challenge
The challenge is to pour a bucket of ice water on ourselves and name more people to do the same and to pay money to help those suffering from ALS, i.e. atrophic lateral sclerosis. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in the challenge, including celebrities and politicians.
Cinnamon is associated by most of us with something pleasant. After all, it is quite a tasty addition to, for example, desserts or coffee. The challenge is to swallow one tablespoon of cinnamon and not to drink anything for a minute after it. Seems easy and safe? The reality is completely different. The person who takes part in such a challenge quickly begins to choke. Theoretically harmless fun can lead to breathing or choking problems.
Salt and Ice Challenge
The person taking part in the challenge must sprinkle salt on his hand and then apply ice to it. The time they manage to endure is counted. This combination of ingredients causes the temperature to drop drastically, a reaction occurs and as a result a burn appears on the skin.
Hot Water Challenge
This dangerous challenge has even had its varieties. In one of them, a person should pour boiling water on themselves or ask someone to do it for them. In another, they have to drink boiling water through a straw. Of course, everything should be recorded and uploaded on the Internet.
Tide Pods Challenge
The challenge is to eat washing capsules, which contain toxic substances.
Let's be reasonable and do not take part in challenges that are dangerous. Let's be alert and devote as much attention to our children as possible. Let's talk with them and teach them how to behave safely and responsibly.