Users of social networks often face dangerous challenges, and some dare to take part in them. According to psychologists, in this way adolescents relieve stress and try to test themselves for strength. Izvestia found out what explains the nature of the risk and how to react to injuries in a child.
How dangerous content affects teens
Challenges on the Web are often viral in nature. Most of them are funny and even helpful. For example, the #IceBucketChallenge campaign – in 2014, millions of users around the world poured cold water on themselves. Few remember, but then the action made it possible to draw attention to patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Or challenge #BlindingLightsChallenge – Tiktokers invited their parents to perform dance moves to the popular track of the singer The Weeknd, written in the style of the 1980s. The action went far beyond the platform and helped bring different generations closer together.
However, not all challenges are so harmless. This is evidenced by a study of the TikTok platform (available to Izvestia). To better understand what potentially dangerous challenges and fakes teenagers face on the Internet, analysts surveyed 10,000 people from 10 countries.
During the study, teens were asked to rate the level of risk from participating in the latest online challenge they saw on the Internet. Almost half of the respondents (48%) reported that the challenge was completely safe and fun, 32% of respondents answered that there was a risk, but the action was safe. 14% of participants described the challenge as risky and dangerous, and only 3% of all challenges were identified as very dangerous. According to the study, 0.3% of all respondents took part in very dangerous challenges.
At the same time, adolescents are not always able to distinguish true information from false information. Misleading information about suicide and self-harm can intimidate an untrained public. While sending “horror stories” to someone seems like an innocent prank, 31% of adolescents, faced with fakes, felt their negative impact. Of these, 63% said that fakes had a negative impact on their mental health.
Why teens take risks
Dangerous challenges regularly attract the attention of young people and adolescents, says Kirill Khlomov, Senior Researcher, Cognitive Research Laboratory, Institute of Social Sciences, RANEPA, Ph.D.
– There was a period of dangerous selfies, choking challenges, and even Ice Bucket Challenge sometimes ended with injuries… In principle, risky behavior is common for all ages. However, in the case of adolescents, there are nuances. First, the relationship with death. For adolescents, very often death does not seem to be an end event, they usually perceive a dangerous situation in terms of the opportunity to examine themselves for strength, expecting that life will move on. It’s no coincidence that adolescents are more likely to experiment with fast driving or drinking alcohol. The next point is communication. Risky behavior triggered by social media creates the temptation to imitate as an opportunity to gain admiration and approval– explained Khlomov.
Акция Ice Bucket Challenge
Photo: social networks
According to the psychologist, the risk can be prosocial or antisocial. In the first case, we are talking, for example, about participation in olympiads, competitions, active citizenship – here the risk of failure fits into social norms. Antisocial risk, on the other hand, forces you to experiment with the boundaries of what is permissible. At the same time, the desire to do something dangerous increases if a person does not act alone.
— A famous social experiment demonstrated risk shift: People are more prone to risky behavior when they are in a group and act in concert. This is directly related to adolescents, because it is at this age that communication with peers is of great importance. Teens are more likely to commit delinquency while in companies. Therefore, the impression of a dangerous challenge is smoothed out due to the fact that you are not doing it alone., – the expert emphasized.
Why do children hurt themselves?
Specifically, in the case of self-harm, the motives of adolescents are somewhat different, noted Elena Morozova, a children’s clinical psychologist, director of the Center for Psychological and Pedagogical Support of the Family “Useful Children”.
– Children who participate in such challenges often experience some kind of mental suffering, as well as a lack of understanding how to relieve stress, how to cope with the emotional stress of life. Thus, adolescents try to translate their mental pain into physical pain and drown out… Of course, fashion influences too, but this is one of the possible reasons. The deepest reason is dissatisfaction and loss. There are many triggers that can lead to painful experiences: this is the first love, and failures, and conflicts at home, she explained.
Kirill Khlomov agrees: self-harm is often associated with a desire to regain self-regulation. In addition, some people tend to take pleasure in self-harm. The wound becomes a way to get high both in pain and in control over it.
Photo: TASS / PA Images / Davor Puklavec
– At the same time, the general condition of the teenager does not change. In the moment – yes, but the worries do not go away on a large scale, – added the psychologist.
What to do for parents
The results of the TikTok study showed that adults do not know how to talk to teenagers about dangerous challenges, worry that from the conversation the child will learn about their existence and this will attract his interest. More than half of the parents surveyed (56%) said that they would not mention hoaxes related to self-injury if the teenager does not speak about them first, and 37% of parents consider them a difficult topic to talk about.
Children’s clinical psychologist Elena Morozova warns: it is better not to start such a conversation with the child unnecessarily. Conversation can become not prevention, but, on the contrary, a provocation.
Kirill Khlomov recalls such a phenomenon as moral panic. In his opinion, it is important to separate the real problem – that is, risky challenges that arise spontaneously – and the panic around them. At one time, exploding chewing gums and contaminated needles made a lot of noise, but the mass hysteria around them turned out to be groundless.
But real cuts on the body are already a symptom that allows us to talk about emotional distress.
— In this case, either the parent must become a kind of psychotherapist and try to unearth the reasons, or it is better to work with a specialist with the symptoms. Sometimes a wise elder friend whom the child trusts can come to the rescue., – advised Morozova.
Photo: TASS / Zuma
According to the observation of a specialist, the topic of self-harm manifested itself three to four years ago. Before that, the psychologist had met with her quite rarely. The popularity of dangerous fun could be added by the period of the pandemic, during which children began to experience a lack of normal communication.
– What is now called “normal communication” – to meet, hang out and sit each in his own gadget. True teenage interaction is doing things together, discussing a movie together, and so on. This is a more productive pastime, which is a serious prevention, – the expert concluded.