The Outlet Challenge – Kids and Dangerous Social Media Challenges

By Carol Cuppy
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Power outlet on fire
Dangerous social media challenges like the Outlet Challenge can cause fires.
Parents need to be aware of dangerous social media challenges - such as the new Outlet Challenge - and should take steps to minimize the impact on their kids.

Teenagers are natural risk-takers and often engage with the world around them in ways that satisfy his or her adventurous tendencies. Dangerous social media challenges have become one of the ways that our kids may choose to express themselves and gain more social media followers. The latest challenge – The Outlet Challenge – is a dangerous social media challenge that has gone viral in the last couple of weeks. Here are the things parents need to know about the challenge and how you can protect your kids from its impact.

What is the Outlet Challenge?

The Outlet Challenge is the latest in a long line of dangerous challenges to go viral on social media. This particular challenge showcases teens plugging an Apple charger (or any other wall plug) into a wall outlet. Next, leaving a tiny gap between the plug casing and wall, the kids proceed to drop a penny onto the metal prongs. The result is a tremendous spark created by the coin’s contact with the live electrical current. This challenge is the modern equivalent of sticking a fork into a wall socket – something all of our parents warned us never to do!

Why It’s Dangerous

Playing with electricity is always a bad idea. The effects of an electrical mishap can have devastating and long reaching results. Even the most experienced electricians sometimes come in contact with the power of electricity. The best case scenario involves a small zap – which is still extremely painful and can cause significant burns. However, electricity has the potential to cause much greater damage to the human body. When an electrical current flows through the body, it can cause significant brain damage or even death. There is the significant risk of serious injury to a child or teenager performing the Outlet Challenge.

If the child does escape any physical harm, there is still the high probability of damage to the electrical socket itself, or to the building. Videos of the Outlet Challenge show blackened and burned wall sockets. Several serious fires have been reported as a result of the spark created by the penny coming in contact with the charger prongs.

Several teens who attempted this challenge in public buildings have been arrested and face criminal charges. This challenge is certainly one that comes with several significant and potentially life-altering

Why Teens are Drawn to It

Teens are natural risk-takers and thrill seekers. The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that handles rational thought, doesn’t fully develop until the age of 25. Because of the development that a teen’s brain is still undergoing, it makes him or her more impulsive and less likely to think through consequences before they act.

Social media has increasingly become an important part of our teenagers’ social interaction. Social media rewards over-the-top behavior by doling out likes and followers. The more likes and followers a person has, the more successful he or she is. And the more outrageous a video or post is, the more traction it seems to have. A post gone viral is cause for serious bragging rights. Since social media is such a fast-moving environment, teens feel pressure to take part in something right away. FOMO (the fear of missing out) is a real thing for our teens.

This pressure to act now definitely plays into our teen’s tendency to act without thinking about possible consequences. Your teenager might not think about how creating an electrical spark may injure him or her, or burn down his or her home. Our teenagers will, however, think about the classmate who attempted the same challenge and who gained hundreds of likes by posting about it.

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How to Protect Your Kids

Educate Yourself About the Challenges

First, be sure to educate yourself on the social media challenges that are out there. Then read about past challenges and learn more about which ones are trending. The more you know, the better conversations you will be able to have with your children about these challenges.

Start The Conversation

Next, be sure to discuss these social media challenges with your teen. A good way to kick off the conversation might be to ask your teenager about which challenges he or she has heard of and what he or she thinks about them. Ask open-ended questions that will help your child to think through the challenges, and what the potential ramifications of completing a particular challenge might be. Discuss how it might impact him or her personally, his friends, or her family.

Check Your Kids’ Social Media Accounts

Keep an eye on your kids’ social media accounts and what he or she is watching online. Know which apps your kids are using and how to use them as well. See what your children are posting, what their friends are posting, and what videos he or she is watching. You can “friend” your child on social media, but also keep track of his or her activity by utilizing some of the excellent apps available to keep your child safe online.

Organize Safe, Adventure-Seeking Activities

Teens need a place to channel the desire for adventure, thrills, and risk-taking. Teenagers want to have something exciting to share with their peers. Organize safe and adult-supervised activities where your child can satisfy these desires. Activities like white-water rafting, hiking, rock climbing, and trying out the latest roller coaster can be great activities for you to do together.

Encourage Participation in Good Social Media Challenges

Lastly, if your kids want to participate in a challenge and want to get involved with a current movement, there are several good social media challenges where he or she can get involved. The Ice Bucket Challenge was instrumental a couple years ago in raising awareness and research fundraising for ALS. Most recently, the Trashtag Challenge has been inspiring teens to clean up litter and focus on local communities.

While the Outlet Challenge is only the latest in a long line of dangerous social media challenges, it is important that we protect our children from the hazards that they pose. Teaching our children how to think through the consequences of their actions could not only prevent a disaster, but will give our kids excellent skills as they grow into adulthood.

© 2020 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.


Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.
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