Culture Dangerous Games That Kids These Days Play  

Mike Rothschild
2.8M views 22 items

What are some dangerous games kids play? Since the advent of social media, parents worry more than ever about their kids being influenced by viral challenges and games that could be incredibly dangerous. While teenagers have been accidentally hurting themselves and each other for centuries, they now can have audiences all over the world thrilling to their misadventures. Add that to the speed with which trends travel, and you've got a recipe for a lot of kids getting hurt to impress other kids.

Or do you? While it's clear that kids do play dangerous games and test their limits, it's also clear that many of these games are nothing more than moral panics. A kid gets hurt doing something stupid, blames it on some new game that "the kids" are playing, and the news media goes into action hyping the new thing to be afraid of - even if it's not really a trend.

So are "games" like car surfing, the choking game, sack tapping, 30 second fighting and skittling just lurking out there, waiting to pounce on naive parents and kids? Or are they mostly just isolated incidents of kids being bored and feeling immortal? Here are some of the dangerous games kids might be playing, what they are, and whether they're really real, or just hype-driven scares.

The Blue Whale Challenge

The Blue Whale Challenge is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Dangerous Games That Kids These Days Play
Photo:  YouTube

WHAT IS IT? An Internet game where people are assigned specific tasks by administrators to accomplish within 50 days. The final challenge is to commit suicide - and, in some cases, on a lifestream.

IS IT REAL? Sadly, yes. The Blue Whale Challenge originated from Russia in 2013, and since then people all over the world have committed suicide under the instruction of the "administrators." The game began over a Russian social network, but permeated into other social media platforms. It's unclear who the administrators are, or how kids even get involved in this game, but it's had devastating effects.

Kids from five continents have either successfully killed themselves or severely injured themselves because of the challenge. In a few instances, adults also injured themselves at the directive of their administrator. 

So far, US officials believe the game is responsible for at least two suicides. Isaiah Gonzales, of Texas, hung himself in his home in July 2017. A girl only identified as Nadia also killed herself that month, and left behind haunting paintings of blue whales.

Duct-Tape Challenge

Duct-Tape Challenge is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Dangerous Games That Kids These Days Play
Photo: Alex Wassabi/Twitter

WHAT IS IT? You get wrapped in duct-tape, either to a chair or simply wrapped up in it, and try to break out. Someone else films it for posterity.

IS IT REAL? It's definitely real for one Seattle-area teen. 14-year-old Skylar Fish was wrapped in duct-tape and fell, hitting his head on a window pane and causing severe injuries. Fish suffered a brain aneurysm, crushed eye socket, needed dozens of stitches, and might lose his vision in one eye.

But one injury doesn't make a trend. And despite the breathless news stories calling the duct-tape challenge "a viral Internet craze" and a "popular new trend," the challenge doesn't appear to be anything more than one of many YouTube pranks that are watched and emulated by teenagers. It's certainly not new, showing up in Google Trends as far back as September, 2012 - and duct-taping people to things as a prank is way older than that.

Like most "dangerous new trends" there's no reliable data on how many kids have actually done it, and how many of them have gotten hurt. It's just that the really horrific injuries, like the one Skylar Fish suffered, become major stories.

The Choking Game

The Choking Game is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Dangerous Games That Kids These Days Play
Photo:  The Choking Game

WHAT IS IT? A form of autoerotic asphyxiation, the choking game became an Internet sensation in 2014 when a Lifetime made for TV movie came out and started scaring the hell out of parents. It involves self-strangulation by using a strap or noose of some kind to cut off the oxygen supply to the brain and create a high.

IS IT REAL? Sadly, there have been a number of deaths caused by children accidentally strangling themselves, though it’s hard to tell whether this is from some kind of organized activity or from individual kids experimenting with something dangerous. The CDC looked into 82 reported choking game deaths and found those who died ranged in age from 6 to 19, and that virtually all of the children were alone when they died. This suggests experimentation gone wrong.

Cinnamon Challenge

Cinnamon Challenge is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Dangerous Games That Kids These Days Play
Photo: darwin Bell/Flickr
WHAT IS IT? A viral sensation since the dawn of the Internet age, the cinnamon challenge is pretty simple. You film yourself swallowing a teaspoon full of cinnamon in less than 60 seconds, and upload the resulting gagging and choking to YouTube. Things can go wrong quickly because the cinnamon dries out the mouth, leading to violent coughing and vomiting, and even aspirating the powder into the lungs.
IS IT REAL? These sorts of eating “challenges” have been around for decades, using almost anything you can think of as food. Some have done it with Saltines, others with bananas and Sprite, a gallon of milk, or pretty much anything else. Mythbusters did an episode about it, and it’s been featured on a number of other TV shows and in hugely popular YouTube videos. The challenge has led to hundreds of calls to emergency services, but no known deaths. It’s a bad idea, no matter what substance you’re devouring.