Online games have had fatal outcomes with children blindly following instructions to self-harm or harm others Image Credit: Pixabay

In January, a 12-year-old girl died attempting the ‘Blackout Challenge’. The challenge involves users choking themselves with household items until they pass out, while filming the process. A Bloomberg report released in 2022 revealed that doing the viral social media challenge claimed the lives of at least 15 children who were 12 or younger since early 2021.

The Blackout Challenge is among the most dangerous trends that went viral on social media, joining the likes of Tide Pod Challenge and Benadryl-overdose trend.

Another example is the cinnamon challenge where one eats a spoonful of cinnamon without drinking water for 60 seconds, cinnamon can dry the mouth causing lungs to collapse or breathing difficulties. Others include the Gallon challenge, huffing and the five finger fillet.

We asked several psychology experts why these trends – clearly illogical and dangerous – were going viral among teens and young adults with no attempt to seek medical advice.

Dr. Paul E. Croarkin of Mayo Clinic commented that social media content could be very convincing and emotionally triggering, as opposed to clinically-delivered medical or scientific evidence. He added that this emotional trigger could sometimes override logical thinking.

Dr Saliha Afridi of The LightHouse Arabia said that humans being naturally curious are drawn to trying new trends without thinking of consequences. She added that the need to conform makes people susceptible to irrational thinking, especially when one’s favourite influencer or group are doing something that is trending.

The statistics are scary and new trends are emerging daily but UAE-based experts said there are some ways to ensure youngsters and children don’t fall prey to such trends without checking with a doctor or an adult first.

Here are some of the most popular, dangerous, life threatening and downright stupid games that you should keep away from children and teens.

Fire Fairy

Fire Fairy is an online prank targets younger children. It gives children dangerous instructions to turn on the gas in the stove at midnight when no one else is awake, and then go back to sleep. The game promises that they will wake up and become fire fairies.

As reported by the Daily Mail, a five-year-old girl has already fallen victim to the game and suffered severe burns to her body when she thought she could be turned into a “fire fairy” as promised online.

Blue Whale

The Blue Whale suicide game is an online social media group where administrators ask children and teens to take on a series of challenges that end with them eventually killing themselves. It is reportedly responsible for hundreds of teen suicides worldwide, particularly in Russia. The suicide game demands players to do bizarre tasks to complete over 50 days. Curators of the game are assigned to exact peer pressure on players, mostly young children and teens. In June, 2017, a 21-year-old Russian Philipp Budeikin was arrested for allegedly being the mastermind behind the game. He has been charged with incitement to suicide of at least 16 schoolgirls.

Cinnamon challenge

It’s a dangerous prank depicted in popular YouTube videos which has led to hospitalisations and a surge in calls to US poison centers.

The fad involves daring someone to swallow a spoonful of ground cinnamon in 60 seconds without water. But the spice is caustic, and trying to gulp it down can cause choking, throat irritation, breathing trouble and even collapsed lungs, the report said.

Choking Game

The choking game also known as fainting game is a game for 2 or more, where one strangulates the other, causing deprivation of oxygen to the brain resulting in temporary unconsciousness and the high of feeling dizzy. Reported deaths have occurred due to this challenge.

Mariam’s Game

The online game revolves around a child lost in the forest and she asks players to help her find her way back home. While the game is filled with frightening audio and visual sound effects, players are asked a series of personal questions as they accompany the little girl home. The online game has caused a great deal of controversy on social networking sites.

Tide Pod Challenge

The “Tide pod challenge,” involves biting down on a brightly coloured laundry detergent packet and spitting out or ingesting its contents, an act that poses serious health risks. The origins and inspiration of the challenge are murky, but jokes have circulated online about the temptation of a product that is known to be dangerous but that bears a resemblance to brightly coloured candy.

Five finger fillet

A game in which you stab a knife between each of your fingers as fast as you can without hitting any.

Gallon challenge

This particular challenge is the process of consuming a large amount of milk within a set period of time. Usually a person is challenged to drink one US gallon or 3.8 litres of whole milk without vomiting. It is very dangerous to drink a gallon of fluid of any sorts within such a short time frame. Most of the time people throw up, and if they don’t, then their cells can suffer from too much hydration.

The Cutting Challenge

This online challenge encourages kids to cut their own arm, leg or other body part with a razor blade or knife. After they cut themselves, they need to take pictures, show their friends or post it on Facebook

The Salt and Ice Challenge

The Salt and ice challenge is another self-harming internet challenge. People are asked to put salt on their skin, usually the arm, then ice is places on the salt. This causes a burning feeling that’s very similar to frost bite, and participants try to see who can last in pain for the longest time. The challenge is then filmed posted on YouTube or other forms of social media. Why does it hurt? The combination of ice and salt creates a chemical reaction where the mixture gets as cold as -18°C and burns through the skin.

Charlie Charlie

Charlie Charlie, technically is not an online game, but an urban legend that suddenly became very popular.

#CharlieCharlieChallenge has been tweeted millions of times in the last three years and many famous YouTube stars filmed themselves playing the game. The game involves a white piece of paper with four quadrants where two are labelled yes, and the other two are labelled no.

Then you place two pencil over each other and ask the demon Charlie questions, which will cause the pencils to move to point at either yes or no. It’s also known as the poor man’s Ouija board. Although it is not entirely dangerous, according to popular legend, Charlie will continue to haunt you if you don’t properly say goodbye before you close out of the game. This causes many children to become scared.