More likes, more followers, more money. Thus challenges on social networks become more and more dangerous

The dynamics of the Castle Paloko accident, which claimed the life of a 5-year-old boy, are still to be clarified, but from the first reconstruction it appears that there was an online challenge as to the origin of the accident. The Lamborghini SUV that crashed into the Smart Forfour was carrying five young people, all in their twenties, belonging to TheBorderline group, which has 600,000 followers on Youtube. The description of the channel is as follows: “We are not rich but we love to spend to entertain you. The more support you give us, the more expensive and fun content we’ll bring, between all kinds of challenges and jokes, we’ll try to make you laugh all the time”. Passes through challenges: 50 hours in isolation, 50 hours in a Tesla, 24 hours in the middle of the ocean. These are mostly harmless challenges, many of which are found on the forum, but the ones that gathered the most views on the channel have specifications in parentheses such as “extreme” or “dangerous” in their title.

More views can also mean more money. In fact, the video streaming platform offers remuneration to more structured profiles with whom they enter into an agreement, and the remuneration increases based on views. “Challenges are very common on TikTok and various social platforms. We adults hear about them too, especially when they’re attached to news stories, because they become alarming,” comments the developmental psychologist, university researcher and professor of adolescent psychology at Catholic University, to HuffPost. Children are under the failure of a mechanism that feeds itself. With these challenges, followers and likes go up – and so do earnings for those who partner with YouTube, for example – but the further you go, the more you raise the bar for growing in these two variables. are forced to. And raising the bar could mean doing something dangerous.”

The year online challenges started was 2012 and one of the first online challenges was born by chance. The Harvard men’s baseball team posted a video on YouTube in which they are seen dancing and lip syncing to Carly Rae Jepsen’s worldwide hit song “Call Me Maybe”. The video became so popular that it was replayed by thousands of people, from ordinary citizens to the US Olympic swim team, from kindergarten classes to Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez. A few years later would come the Harlem Shake, with which we danced a strange two-beat and two-beat dance in the company of friends. The most famous of all dates back to 2016: The Ice Bucket Challenge involved tipping over a bucket filled with ice water, for a noble cause, namely to raise money for the ALS Association, an American non-profit organization that focuses on research. I am engaged in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. The “cinnamon challenge” was also very popular in those periods, which involved recovering from eating a spoon full of cinnamon.

Over the years, food challenges have been debunked in many other ways, also inspired by the 90s MTV program, Jackass, a very popular show in which nine friends performed challenges and pranks. An early disclaimer warned viewers not to repeat them at home, as some could be dangerous. The cast was made up of professional stuntmen and apparently everything took place in maximum security. On Youtube, the format is now often repeated, but the safety standards are clearly not those of television. While anyone can retrieve and post videos, that anyone on social media is often too young and not always trained or careful enough to not actually put themselves in danger. But danger builds viewers on TV just like on social media.

“Adolescence has a specific function of exposure”, explains Dr. Cucci, “it helps to form an identity, to experiment with its limits, to gain more autonomy. Then there are functions related to the social sphere: The desire to imitate peers, comparing oneself with them and possibly surpassing them. It is also a way of sharing feelings, and this primarily drives its popularity on social networks. Some specificities associated with social media are: want to increase as many followers and likes as possible, which also results in increased self-esteem. But the more they increase, the more I have to offer a certain type of content.”

Choking Game, Batmanning, Eyeballing. And again Planking, Blue Whale, Bird Box Challenge. What started as harmless and mild online challenges have turned dangerous and in some cases even deadly. A 13-year-old girl in Palermo lost her life after she tightened a strap around her neck to replicate a Tik Tok challenge. The same happened with a 9-year-old girl in Wisconsin. In Argentina, a 12-year-old girl died after suffocating on a rope. This is not a timely review: it is difficult to establish how many cases are related to practice. Among the first dangerous challenges to spread on the web, starting in Russia, was Blue Whale: an extreme test made up of 50 rules, including slitting your wrists, climbing to the roof of a building, and climbing a ladder. Whoever did the test had to document it with shots and videos and send them to the curators.

“On the basis of the inability to foresee and reflect on the consequences of a behavior: legal, psychological, for oneself and for others”, explains the doctor, “we are facing immaturity on the one hand cognitive, on the other emotional. These behaviors are ingrained because emotions cannot be controlled. Often youth approach risky elements because they lack other strategies to perform the actions that facilitate risk taking: building an identity, experimenting with their limits, gaining more autonomy. So they activate risky behavior rather than proactive behavior. With social networks it seems like there has been a transposition of these risky behaviors online”.

It is difficult to find an embankment to the question: “It is not enough to give information, we must offer an alternative. Different strategies for creating identities should be given, along with concrete information about the consequences of these actions. For someone social media activity is a work from which you earn a living, kids say they want to grow up to be youtubers. To work in security, it would be necessary to acquire the skills for any other job”.

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