Chances are you've indulged in a social media challenge or two while in quarantine. If so, you're in good company. At Kapwing, we love a good #challenge like the Vogue, Challenge Accepted, and 2020 challenges.
These viral trends have become so popular that keeping up with the latest ones can prove challenging (pun intended), but they're not all worth partaking in. Some even have tragic consequences. For example, the 6inner and Blue Whale challenges that circulated in July leveraged cyber-bullying tactics to put participants at extreme risk of harming themselves.
Now, it's the deadly Benadryl Challenge on TikTok that's gaining traction and, according to reports, has already claimed the life of one teen in Oklahoma and hospitalized several others. The point of this challenge is to experience hallucinations by ingesting an unsafe dosage of the OTC drug, which (when taken correctly) is used to treat allergy symptoms. Experts warn that such a dose can be lethal, causing seizures and severe heart issues.
While Johnson & Johnson, the maker of Benadryl, said they're working with TikTok to remove all related content from the platform, we wanted to share a few precautionary measures parents can take to help keep their teens away from this deadly trend and others like it:
- Disable Direct Messages
- Block and Report suspicious accounts
- Implement parental controls
1. Disable Direct Messages
These types of challenges don't just crop up and catch on – they are often calculated attacks that target victims through direct messages (DM's). In the case of the Benadryl challenge, news outlets reported that a video told these teens exactly how many milligrams of the drug to take and how it would make them feel. Disabling your child or teen's DM's is a great way to prevent unwanted and potentially dangerous social media accounts from contacting them.
To disable DMs on TikTok, click on the ... menu in the top right corner. In "Privacy and Safety," toggle the "Who can send you messages" setting.
To disable Instagram DMs, click the three line menu in the top right corner. Go to Settings > Notifications > Direct Messages and set "Message Requests" to OFF.
Keep in mind that on TikTok, you will only receive direct messages from people you follow that follow you back, On Instagram, direct messages from people you don't follow will appear as requests that you can either Delete or Accept.
2. Block and Report suspicious accounts
We're not fans of prying, but maintaining open lines of communication with your kids about their social media activity can help you monitor who they've added and who's added them. Both TikTok and Instagram allow users to Block accounts they don't wish to interact with and Report anyone who abuses the platforms. If you're unsure about whether or not to report an account, community guidelines are available on both websites that you can consult before taking action. While users are able to deduce that you've blocked them, reporting is completely anonymous.
3. Implement parental controls
In February, TikTok rolled out its "Family Pairing" feature, which links a parent's TikTok account to their teen's account and allows them to control features including Screen Time Management, Direct Messages, and Restricted Mode. They also released a seven-part video series on safety called "You're in Control" that you can view on the @TikTokTips account.
Instagram doesn't give parents direct access to their kids' accounts, but they created a comprehensive, online guide for parents that offers crucial safety tips. It's called "A Parent's Guide to Instagram" and it's broken down into three parts – Privacy, Interactions, and Time Management. Bonus – it also includes ten questions you can use to facilitate a conversation with your teen about Instagram.
One final tip: Share this article with other parents and teens. Even if you don't have kids, the sinister nature of these challenges is a concern for everyone on social media, and making sure no one else falls victim to them is a challenge we can all accept.