TikTok challenges are not child’s play

TikTok ‘Tranquiliser Challenge. Picture: Pexels

TikTok ‘Tranquiliser Challenge. Picture: Pexels

Published Sep 18, 2023


Johannesburg - South African parents have been urged to keep an eye on their children and the dangers lurking behind allowing them to take part in the numerous TikTok challenges doing the rounds.

While dance styles, comedic skits, and voice-overs on various social media platforms have become the norm, specialised security companies have urged parents to also be aware of the perils of some of these challenges.

Specialist Investigator Mike Bolhuis said that of late, platforms such as TikTok have become the most apparent source of adult content creation.

At the same time, Bolhuis said, the app did, however, encourage themes that were much more mature than its 16+ rating often suggested, which often enabled children to have access to mature content through a quick hashtag search.

According to the specialist investigator, as a result of the increase and promotion of inappropriate content, apps such as TikTok had already been banned in several countries, including China, where it originated, India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

"TikTok, with its short-form video format, has captivated the younger generation, making it fertile ground for trends to spread like wildfire. The quest for attention, validation, and the allure of overnight fame have fuelled a disturbing phenomenon.

"In the pursuit of online validation, some individuals are willing to push boundaries without fully grasping the potential consequences because TikTok challenges often involve physical risks that can result in severe injuries or even fatalities," he added.

In some instances, challenges include extreme stunts like jumping off roofs, attempting dangerous gymnastic feats, or engaging in harmful activities like the consumption of toxic substances.

Bolhuis said that South Africa had not been immune to witnessing reckless stunts, as one such incident had already occurred where a group of teenagers attempted the “fire challenge” which left several children with severe burns requiring hospitalisation.

In this challenge, the teenagers doused themselves with a flammable substance and set it alight, all while recording the act for social media.

It is similar to the “daredevil diving challenge” where participants were dared to jump off cliffs into bodies of water from dangerous heights, which led to the death of one person in South Africa.

"This incident underscored the lethal consequences that can arise from imitating risky behaviours seen on social media platforms. While TikTok offers a platform for creativity and connection, the rise of dangerous challenges is a deeply concerning trend.

"Parents, educators, and society must promote responsible digital behaviour, educate the younger generation about the potential dangers of such challenges, and emphasise the value of self-worth that extends beyond social media validation," Bolhuis added.

The Star