The Fire Challenge: Why teens are lighting themselves on fire

Published: Aug. 21, 2018 at 10:20 PM CDT
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It might seem like common sense to avoid catching yourself on fire, but in the age of social media - think again. The fire challenge is the latest teen trend where kids douse themselves in flammable chemicals then light themselves on fire. And while teens may think the likes, shares, and internet fame are nice - the consequences aren't.

"Any kind of challenge that they have now – it has ramifications," says Levi Nesvold, a Firefighter/EMT with the West Fargo Fire Department. "Loss of feeling, skin grafts, loss of hair, permanent disfigurement. It's nothing that should be played around with at all."

But that isn't what teens see when they look online. Instead of bandages, blisters, and burns, they see the videos like the fire challenge as an opportunity for popularity.

“Even if they come out of it, it can be a very challenging situation after that. And it’s not worth the popularity,” Nesvold says.

Now, some social media platforms are making efforts to protect kids from dangerous viral video challenges.

In a statement, YouTube says:

"YouTube's Community Guidelines prohibit content that's intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm or death. We remove flagged videos that violate our policies."

Leaving an opening for kids to find other ways to make friends and stand out.

"Excel at sports, excel at anything else, find hobbies – hunting, fishing – there's many other things you can do other than setting yourself on fire," says Nesvold.

Experts say the best way to protect your kids from imitating dangerous online challenges is to be involved in their online lives, talk with them about safe behavior, and model it for them as well.