TikTok challenges: fun or deadly?

Mason Dark recovering in Burn Unit photo by GoFundMe

Mason Dark recovering in Burn Unit photo by GoFundMe

Baily Hacker, Staff Reporter

TikTok is a popular, widespread social media platform that has taken over headlines due to its infamous challenges. Some of these challenges can be fun and harmless, like the lip sync challenge but others are harmful and dangerous, like the Benadryl and homemade blowtorch challenge. 

Research has shown that people between the ages of 14 and 24, the target audience of TikTok,  are the most impressionable in society. Teens are very likely to replicate something they see on the internet, even if they feel it is unsafe or can harm themselves or their friends. They see someone else doing it and think ‘if they can do it, I can do it.’ It is estimated that more than two thirds of US teenagers are on TikTok, meaning thousands of kids are negatively influenced to recreate these challenges. 

In 2020 Jacob Stevens, a thirteen year old boy, died in the hospital after taking part in the viral Benadryl challenge. This dangerous dare wanted kids to take 12 to 14 over-the-counter allergy pills at once. Many teens are aware that taking too many pills at once can lead to an overdose, but their desire to fit in blinded them from comprehending the full risk of the challenge. 

TikTok took action after the thirteen year-old boy’s death by banning the hashtag for the challenge and when searching for that hashtag the site takes you to a resource page for substance abuse. The FDA also released an official warning of the side effects of taking too much Benadryl when the challenge first became popular.

Sadly they did not act fast enough and Stevens was not the only casualty of this heinous dare, it also took the life of a 15-year-old girl from Oklahoma. These two were not the only victims of this challenge; it has sent many teens to the emergency room for overdosing. 

On the night of April 28, Mason Dark fell victim to one of these TikTok challenges. He and his friends decided to participate in the dare to make your own torch using a can of spray paint and a lighter, like they saw in the original TikTok video. The can then unexpectedly burst into flames, engulfing the kids. When Dark was covered in flames, he panicked and jumped in the river right next to where they were filming and tore off his fire coated shirt.

16 year-old Mason Dark went through a life altering event that night. More than 75% of his body is covered with burns and it is estimated that he will have to spend six months recovering in the burn unit. Bacteria from the river has increased his risk of infection and from ripping his shirt off he has a t-shirt shaped third degree burn on his back. So far he has undergone several skin graphs and is expected to need more. Dark was an active member of his school as a member of the football and track teams. We are still waiting for TikTok to make a statement about this unfortunate event spurred by its own content. 

While no one person forced these kids to take part in the challenges, society’s peer pressure to fit in forced them to. The need to validate themselves online so people would think they are popular and cool forced them to do this. The factors connecting these two tragedies is that the activities the teenagers tried to recreate were TikTok challenges and the victims were teenagers.

TikTok preys on the mentally insecure teenagers and in their highly impressionable state they will do whatever the social media platform says to do. What if the next new, ‘exciting’ thing to do is setting your house on fire or running away? What if it’s stealing? If TikTok goes unpunished for these crimes an epidemic of hurt kids will spread throughout the world.


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  • Jacob Stevens in the hospital photo by Justin Stevens

  • Thirteen-year-old Jacob Stevens photo by Justin Stevens

  • Mason Dark recovering in Burn Unit photo by GoFundMe

  • Sixteen-year-old Mason Dark photo by GoFundMe

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