Culture

Dangerous Games That Kids These Days Play  

Mike Rothschild
2.9M views 23 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 Momo Challenge
The Momo Challenge is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Dangerous Games That Kids These Days Play
Photo:  @j_s_rock/Instagram/knowyourmeme

WHAT IS IT? Users of the popular communication app called WhatsApp are asked to add a particular contact with the image of a titular Japanese statue called "Momo" as it's avatar. Momo has bulging eyes and a deep, wide smile. Once added, the contact urges users to participate in harmful acts against themselves. 

IS IT REAL? The Momo challenge is likely a hoax. There are no reports of children being harmed by Momo in the US. The passing a 12-year-old girl in Argentina was investigated in relation to the challenge, but never confirmed. A woman named Jessica Edwards told ABC 15 news in Arizona that when she asked her niece about Momo she responded with, "how do you know about it" before running off in tears. Momo allegedly threatens kids not to tell the adults in their lives about it, which has allowed it to circulate freely since the summer of 2018. 

Shortly after the alleged resurgence of Momo swept across schools in 2019, YouTube responded that, "We’ve seen no recent evidence of videos promoting the Momo Challenge... Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges are against our policies." Although parents and school officials spread warnings about Momo, there is little evidence to suggest anyone has actually been harmed. 

Regardless of the challenge's status as a hoax, Momo artist Keisuke Aiso destroyed his creation. He told The Sun UK that the sculpture which inspired the game "was rotten and [he] threw it away. The children can be reassured Momo is [gone] - she doesn’t exist."

The Blue Whale Challenge
The Blue Whale Challenge is listed (or ranked) 2 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 livestream.

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) 3 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) 4 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.