Experts in the UAE have once again warned parents to watch out for their kids’ involvement in “unusual activities”, following the emergence of TikTok videos that encourage the youth to try the so-called ‘blackout challenge’.
This particular challenge — which has been in the global spotlight since last year — dares kids to hold their breath until they pass out. In 2021, two girls in the US died after taking part in it, prompting parents to sue the platform.
“Parents need to set boundaries about Internet usage. They should also have an open dialogue and honest conversations with children about Internet safety,” said Dr Nada Omer Mohamed Elbashir, a psychiatrist at Burjeel Hospital, Abu Dhabi.
Adults can help youngsters understand the guidelines better by setting an example and showing them how social media can be used safely, Dr Elbashir added.
“Use parental controls and safe search settings while children browse the Internet. Be up to date on privacy settings. Ensure that you are around when your child is using social media or the Internet, and make sure they are following the age requirement when they want to download Facebook or TikTok or any other app.”
Wellness coaches and psychology experts highlighted that bullying is also prevalent on social media, particularly among teenagers.
It is possible that some kids, they said, are being bullied into doing life-threatening challenges online. Some do it for likes, too.
Girish Hemnani, a life coach in Dubai, said: “To access and implant a suggestion in the subconscious mind, one of the ways is to overload the conscious mind. This is what is happening at the mass level via social media apps.”
“The conscious mind is still developing for children and yet to discern from the thrill and threat, not being able to think it through and be cautious of possible consequences for oneself and/or for others,” Hemnani added.
Even school authorities have a role to play in keeping kids safe online.
“Challenges made popular on social media, such as the ‘Game of Death Challenge’, are a serious concern that should not be overlooked by school authorities,” said Nora Eldrageely, middle school counsellor at GEMS American Academy – Abu Dhabi.