NFPA and the Phoenix Society have issued official warnings against the phenomenon known as the “fire challenge” trending on social media outlets. This dangerous activity requires a person to pour a liquid accelerant, such as nail polish remover or hand sanitizer on his or her body and set it on fire. Many fire and life safety educators are wondering what actions can be taken to help stop this challenge. Unfortunately, the answer to the question is complex and there is no single answer.
Here are some actions adults can consider:
- Become informed on the warning signs and risks of this activity. Have a conversation with teens about the impact of burn injuries and participating in unreasonable risks.
- Monitor teens’ use of social media. Outlets such as Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook cause the latest trends to travel at lightning speed. Additionally, the validation from “likes”, “views”, and comments from followers provide a hefty social reward for those who post photos and videos.
- Recognize that the teen brain (up to about age 25) is under construction. As a result, adolescents do not process rewards and risks the same way as adults do. The teen brain tends to weigh rewards much more heavily than risks.
- Be involved with teens. It is developmentally important for teens to seek independence but input from and interaction with adults is still important during this time.
- Model healthy risk taking and thrill seeking.
- Provide opportunities for teens to channel thrill seeking behaviors in healthy ways. These opportunities can be physical activities such as obstacle courses, kayaking, mud runs, hiking, zip lining, and neighborhood games of manhunt. Some teens may find excitement in acting in a theatre company, performing in a talent or improv show, visiting an amusement park, running in an election or joining a campaign committee. Encourage kids to be silly but safe: have a fun game of “Heads Up!” in the middle of the mall, participate in a flash mob, or even go caroling in July.
- Flag dangerous YouTube videos: YouTube has a set of Community Guidelines for posting videos. They do remove posts that cross the limits of “Dangerous Illegal Acts” and posts that are “Shocking and Disgusting”. However, YouTube relies on the viewers to flag items that cross the lines. Click on the flag icon under the number of views to send a warning to YouTube.
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