What Parents Should Know About the Hot Coil Challenge

It wasn’t too long ago that that I sat down on my couch in front of my laptop and wrote a post warning parents about the dangers of a scary new viral trend, The Tide Pod Challenge.

I finished writing, closed my laptop and thought to myself, “that’s it, we can’t get any stupider than this.”

I was wrong.

Please pardon me for being slightly more candid in this post than I normally would be but I’m honestly baffled by the fact that I’m writing yet another post about a “challenge” that makes me question everything I know about humanity.

I just made the mistake of checking my e-mail and I received an article talking about a potential new viral challenge: the Hot Coil Challenge.

I very much refuse to share footage or even photos from the initial video daring viewers to follow suit for two reasons. 1) There is no way I’m giving this live-action Beavis and Butthead any more attention than they deserve and 2) it’s painfully graphic and just painful to watch.

The challenge first appeared on Reddit when the video surfaced. A young man is standing over an electric stove complete with coils. The burner is on and bright read from the heat.

“See that hot {expletive} coil?” he asks the cameraman.

“Yeah. We’ve got your face too. You reaction will be priceless.”

The young man then places his forearm on the hot coil, which immediately begins steaming and he begins screaming.

In a snap it’s over and he proudly displays his smoldering, third-degree burn to the camera.

As of sitting to write this, the video I’m referring to is the only one out there. Many Reddit users condoned the challenge, calling it what it is, stupid. I’m hoping that this whole things ends where it began, with these two Darwin Award-winners doing what they can for 15-minutes of internet fame.

However, I think it’s important that parents are mindful of the potential for this video to lead to a trend of copycats. Get a conversation started early and get ahead of them finding out about this on the internet. Ask them what they know about the challenge and if there understand the dangers of such actions.

In just a few seconds the young man in the video received a third-degree burn. This type of burn reaches into the fat layer beneath the skin. Burned areas may be charred black or white. The skin may look waxy or leathery. Third-degree burns can destroy nerves, causing numbness.

Complications from this or any type of burn can include:

  • Burns can leave skin vulnerable to bacterial infection and increase your risk of sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening infection that travels through the bloodstream and affects your whole body. It progresses rapidly and can cause shock and organ failure.
  • Low blood volume.Burns can damage blood vessels and cause fluid loss. This may result in low blood volume (hypovolemia). Severe blood and fluid loss prevents the heart from pumping enough blood to the body.
  • Dangerously low body temperature.The skin helps control the body’s temperature, so when a large portion of the skin is injured, you lose body heat. This increases your risk of a dangerously low body temperature (hypothermia). Hypothermia is a condition in which the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat.
  • Breathing problems.Breathing hot air or smoke can burn airways and cause breathing (respiratory) difficulties. Smoke inhalation damages the lungs and can cause respiratory failure.
  • Burns can cause scars and ridged areas caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue (keloids).
  • Bone and joint problems.Deep burns can limit movement of the bones and joints. Scar tissue can form and cause shortening and tightening of skin, muscles or tendons (contractures). This condition may permanently pull joints out of position.

 

As I mentioned, this challenge has yet to receive “viral” status, but the video itself has. I would like to think that this single video would be enough to deter anyone from recreating something like this but I said the same thing in the early moments of the Tide Pod Challenge so really anything is possible.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy Central and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Massachusetts Couple Victim of Strange Amazon Scam

In October of 2017, Mike and Kelly Gallivan of Acton, Mass started receiving free mystery packages from Amazon. What started as a fun surprise has turned into something of an annoyance for the couple as these packages have continued to arrive at a rate of one or two a week ever since.

My initial reaction, like many, was BRING ON THE FREE THINGS! The couple was receiving items like phone chargers, USB fans and other cheap items.

Turns out that the two may be unwitting accomplices in a scam in an effort to manipulate buyer reviews on the Amazon web site.

The two have contacted Amazon and learned that all of the orders were paid for by gift card. This method doesn’t require a sender’s name, address or other information.

Here’s how the scam works: A seller trying to prop up a product would set up a phony e-mail account that would be used to establish an Amazon account. Then the seller would purchase merchandise with a gift card – no identifying information there – and send it to a random person, in this case the Gallivans. Then, the phantom seller, who controls the “buyer’s” e-mail account, writes glowing reviews of the product, thus boosting the Amazon ranking of the product.

The sending of the actual items boosts the review’s validity as it earns the marking of “verified review” meaning that Amazon can vouch that this person actually ordered the item in question. Amazon then highlights verified reviews on the product page and gives better ranking to items with more verified reviews.

Sadly, there is no way of knowing how the Gallivans, both retired nurses, fell victim to this scam. The likelihood is that at one point or another they ordered from the perpetrating company and their address was then used to perpetuate this scam.

I encourage online shoppers to make sure they are shopping Amazon to choose items that are fulfilled by Amazon rather than a third-party. You can see if this is the case by taking a look at the page either in the “add to cart” area or under the price in the item description.

This will limit the exposure of your information to third parties.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy Central and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

 

What Parents Should Know About the Tide Pod Challenge

I’m going to be honest- when news about this started slowly making its way into my various social media feeds, I thought it was just a joke. Mostly because I am familiar with the following sketch video from the site College Humor which was created and released in early 2017. (You can view it here)

In the video, originally titled “Don’t Eat the Laundry Pods”, we see a young man who is tempted to eat from a bowl of free laundry pods that have been left as samples. Even after researching whether or not the pods would have a harmful effect (they will) he gives into temptation and chows down on multiple pods. Smash cut to him foaming at the mouth on a stretcher uttering that he has no regrets.

The good folks at College Humor, in light of recent events have updated the video description with the following: “In light of recent news reports of idiot teens actually eating laundry pods, we want to make very clear that our position is the title of this video: DON’T EAT THE LAUNDRY PODS, you moron. Not even a little tiny bit, to impress your dumb friends or the internet. You will get poisoned and die.”

They have even go so far as to change the name of the video to: Don’t Eat the Laundry Pods (Seriously. They’re Poison.)

Jokes about chowing down on the pods date back to as early as 2015 with an article appearing on the satirical news site The Onion. The article “So Help Me God, I’m Going To Eat One Of Those Multicolored Detergent Pods” is told from the perspective of a young child who is hell-bent on consuming the pods.

Joking has morphed into a frightening reality with over 10,500 reports of child exposure to detergent pods coming into poison control centers in 2017.

The desire for viral internet fame has taken a dark turn as of late with many teens taking what is being refered to as the “Tide Pod Challenge”, video-taping themselves attempting to eat the pods and posting them to social media sites.

Quick Side Note: I will simply be referring to videos I have seen rather than directly linking to them as I do not want to promote the viewing of them as it really just encourages this kind of nonsense. Those curious enough are welcome to search for the challenge on YouTube though I highly advise refraining for both the above reason and for the sometime graphic content you will find.

UPDATE: Social media sharing site like YouTube have started cracking down on Tide Pod Challenge videos and have been removing them. Facebook and Instagram have followed suit. All three platforms site the user guidelines prohibiting content depicting users harming themselves.

Some videos show some users simply placing the pods in their mouths for a few moments while others show teens biting down and bursting the gel portion of the pod. One video showed a teen going so far as to swallow the entire pod whole.

Others show more creative ways of consuming the pods including on pizza and inside a hamburger.

While some of these videos may seem harmless on the surface, they are not showing the true effects of what consuming laundry detergent can do.

Teens run the risk of chemicals burns on their lips, mouth or in their esophagus. Consuming laundry detergent can also cause vomiting and other serious medical problems. The dissolvable membrane surrounding the soap, if consumed, can cause damage to your nervous system, which can lead to fatigue, breathing trouble, and even cardiac arrest or coma.

Some Additional Science:

Detergent – which is used to break up components of waste, is composed of a mixture of synthetic chemicals – and their most important ingredients are surfactants.

Surfactants, long-chain molecules that attach both to water and grease, form “supermolecules” when they are dissolved in water.

Our mouths and digestive systems are full of water – as well as fats. And having these aggressively stripped away from your digestive system is harmful.

However, according to a report by a scientific branch of the European Commission, “in small quantities, surfactants have low oral acute toxicity” and usually just cause an irritating effect on mucous membranes.

But if a higher dose is consumed, the effects can become much more severe.

According to the report, “Manifestations may include vomiting, abdominal pain, flatulence, and diarrhoea.”

Additionally, “In rare cases, vomiting or formation of considerable amounts of foam in the mouth involve an aspiration risk” – or the risk of becoming unable to breathe properly.

While the more severe risks associated with consuming surfactants are more likely to affect elderly, young children, or those with weakened immune systems, even healthy adults can suffer side effects.

And Tide pods also contain bleach – an oxidizing agent.

When consumed, which it should never be, bleach can cause burns to your digestive tract, which can induce vomiting.

What Parents/Educators Should Do?

As usual my best advice is to have a conversation with your kids. Ask them if they have heard about the challenge and are aware of the severe health risks associated with it. It’s important not to shy away from discussing these stories out of fear of putting ideas into their heads about giving it a try. Them knowing that you are aware of these kinds of stories puts your voice in the back of their head should they be tempted to give it a try.

This challenge is no laughing matter and has resulted in 6 deaths and multiple hospitalizations. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reported six adults suffering from cognitive impairment, along with two children, have died as a result of ingesting the pods.

Those deaths were initially reported by Consumer Reports after filing a Freedom of Information Act Request with the CPSC.

Tide Is Taking Initiative to Prevent Further Tragedy

In early 2016 Tide released a safety video regarding the Pods: How to Keep Your Child Safe and Your Laundry Clean and have since dedicated a page of their web site about safe handling of the pods. The web site lists some of the following as safety measures:

  • In addition to keeping products out of reach of children, to ensure child safety, keep products in their original containers with the labels intact.
  • After each use, completely close the container, and immediately store the container in an appropriate location out of reach of children.
  • Choose child-resistant products like Tide PODS® Child-Guard™ Pack whenever possible.
  • Child proof cabinets and drawers when it comes to storing household cleaning and laundry items. For further information, please visit Safe Kids Worldwide website.
  • Keep laundry pacs out of reach of children.
  • When caring for an individual living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, all cleaning products — including laundry detergents – should be secured in a locked cabinet or closet when not in use.

Additionally the following safety precautions are listed in the event of exposure or consumption of laundry detergent:

  • Unintended exposure to or skin contact with laundry products usually causes no serious medical effects.
  • If exposure to the skin or clothing occurs, remove contaminated clothing and rinse skin well with water.
  • If a product gets in the eye(s), then rinse immediately with plenty of water for 15 minutes and seek medical advice as needed.
  • If a product is swallowed, drink a glass of water or milk and contact the Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222) or doctor immediately. Do not induce vomiting.
  • Following these laundry safety steps will help keep your home as safe as possible. Know what to do before unintended exposure happens. Read the product safety information provided on the package.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy Central and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

10 Quick Online Safety Tips For Teens and Tweens

Sometimes a new year is all about getting back to the basics. It’s a great time to recharge and refresh and, most importantly, remind yourself about the important lessons learned from years past to move forward with great wisdom and ease.

So with that in mind, I wanted to share some quick tips (hopefully a reminder for many) on staying safe online as well as some pointers on responsible social media usage.

Enjoy!

  1. Think before you post.
  2. Respect other people online, avoid gossip.
  3. Ask for permission before you meet online friends in-person.
  4. Don’t feed cyberbullies—block the sender, ignore mean messages, file a report with the website or police.
  5. Speak up if you see someone getting bullied.
  6. Clean up your profile, eliminate your page of everything too personal, embarrassing, and illegal.
  7. Use the privacy settings.
  8. Monitor what others post about you.
  9. Keep adults in the loop—tell them when you add new sites, new friends or see something suspicious or harmful.
  10. Use your voice for good—use social media to do something productive for you or a cause.

What tips would you add to the list?

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy Central and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Resolve to Stay Safe Online

It’s the first day of a new year and the time when people are making big plans for what they want to accomplish in the days and months to come. While many of those goals are centered around getting into shape, going on a lavish vacation, or saving up for a dream house, I do encourage you to take some time to review your goals in the cyber world. Specifically? Being a safe and smart user!

Here are some quick tips to consider going into the new year!

Data Security: Be sure to back up your data from both your mobile devices and computers. Consider investing in an external hard drive. They are inexpensive and a 1 terabyte drive would be more than enough for the casual user. This helps keep your information safe and gives you peace of mind should something happen to your device.

Reputation Security: Now is a great time to take a look at those social media contact lists and clean up shop! Clean up any posts or photos you wouldn’t want popping up should an employer go searching for you. This doesn’t make it go away forever but it does help make it harder to find. Take a look at your social media privacy settings and tweak them accordingly.

Financial Security: Keep all of your devices and securities up to date to patch up any holes in safety. Make sure to check regularly for any updates released throughout the year and update them immediately!

Mobile Security: Secure your devices with a pass code and other built-in security features. This will make it more difficult for an outsider to get into them should you misplace anything.

It is also around the new year that many social media sites and apps will update their policies. Take them time to understand what these updates mean for your privacy and safety.

Here’s to a happy and wonderful 2018!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy Central and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

 

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Internet Safety Tips for Holiday Travel

Wow! We are just one week away from Christmas and, if you’re anything like me, you had no idea it was this close! With all the hustle and bustle of the busy holiday season, it’s sometimes easy to forget about keeping ourselves safe in the online world.

Here are a few tips to keep you safe while spending time with your family and friends this holiday season- be it at home or on the go!

Update! Make sure all of your devices’ software is up to date before leaving home. This includes the devices that you are leaving behind. This helps close any holes that hackers could use to crawl through.

Back it up! Travelling can be unpredictable. Create a backup of the data on your laptops and other devices just in case anything happens. I recommend investing in an external hard drive. These days they are relatively inexpensive for a lot of space! I personally use a Western Digital Hard Drive, which you can also purchase for a Mac.

Be Careful with Free Wifi! Think twice before logging in to unsecured, free wi-fi. Sometimes it’s worth the upgrade to pay for a secure connection than risk compromising your information.

Browse Safely! Be sure to use secured wireless connections whenever available. If you are not able to connect to a secure system, avoid doing any personal business (paying bills, logging into bank accounts, other sensitive business) if you’re not sure of the security.

Think Before You Post! It is always so tempting to share your adventures and family fun while visiting for the holidays but it is important to resist. You never know what may accidentally end up public or who might be watching. It’s especially important to make sure not to share high-end gifts that you’ve received as well. It’s the same principal about buying a new TV and leaving the box out at the curb for trash.

Shut Down Your Wireless! Switch off wireless connectivity on phones, tablets, laptops, and other devices when they are not in use. This prevents hackers and criminals from potentially accessing your device on an open network without you even knowing that it happened.

Keep an Eye On Your Devices! While traveling in airport or otherwise, keep track of your devices. If you plug in at the airport, don’t go more than a few feet from your device and don’t let it out of your sight. Consider investing in a portable charger rather than trusting that you’ll be able to keep an eye on a public power outlet. This way you can keep your phone, tablet, etc in your bag. Double check your surroundings before moving to ensure you have everything. Double check before getting on the plane that you haven’t left anything in or around your seat.

Here’s hoping that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season, wherever your travels take you! I look forward to bringing you more in the new year!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

What Parents Should Know About “13 Reasons Why”

It has been over a month since “13 Reasons Why” debut on Netflix and my inbox has been flooded with questions about the show. I have been working hard to put together the best information possible for parents and educators. The more I start to work on this, the more I realize there is to say. In an effort to keep each of these posts short and sweet, I will continue to post information in separate posts. I will include link-backs to earlier posts to help keep all the information together. I have also created a “13 Reasons Why” category which will show you all the posts back-to-back.

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for both the show and possibly the book. If you are worried about plot points being revealed, proceed with caution.

Based on the best-selling novel by Jay Asher, the show follows Clay Jensen following the suicide of his classmate Hannah Baker. Clay received a mysterious package containing cassette tapes, which turn out to be Hannah’s suicide note. On each of the 13 tapes, Hannah details the reasons why each person mentioned is responsible for her committing suicide.

SEE ALSO: 13 Reasons Why: Book vs Show AND Why the “Welcome to Your Tape” Meme Needs to Stop

The question that seems to be coming up a lot from parents has been “should I let my kids watch 13 Reasons Why?”

Because the show is on Netflix, which is subscription based, it falls outside the TV Parental Guidelines and therefore is classified as “Not Rated.”

This really leaves it up to parents to decide whether or not the show is right for their kids and I have to agree. I’ve said many times before that I should always be up to the parents to make the decision about what they feel is right for their kids. This applies on all fronts: technology, social media and even television and movies.

You know what your kids can and can’t handle.

As the show has received an insane amount of both positive and negative press, it would be hard to believe that kids haven’t already heard of it. The book has also been taught in some schools prior to the show’s release.

There’s no escaping it.

Even if you decide that you don’t want your kids to watch the show, with the east of access to something like Netflix, it’s almost impossible to keep your kids away even with parental controls in place.

Therefore, I think it’s important that parents have an understanding of the show and use its content to hold constructive conversations on the subject matter.

Open communication is important, especially in the high school years. While you may not feel ready to talk to your child about suicide, sexual assault, and depression these are topics that are coming up more and more, especially within middle and high school settings.

The series does allow an opening to discuss these topics and more including drugs and alcohol.

As someone who deals with depression and anxiety on a personal level, I found it especially hard to watch the show. More so, as an educator in bullying prevention and social media I was beyond frustrated with how many of the situations in the show were dealt with by the grown-ups.

The way I have chosen to look at the story being told by the show is that it is being told from the perspective of the kids living within this world. With the book, we are centered solely around Clay as he spends a single night listening to the tapes. The events of the book are told from his perspective as well as Hannah’s by way of the tapes. Adults and outside stories don’t really exist.

When you take this approach to the show things can start to make a little more sense as to how situations are being handled.

Though, on the same vein, I find it hard to believe that an obscene amount of offensive graffiti like what Hannah’s mother found, would go unnoticed in a school bathroom long enough to be amass gas station bathroom status.

I also find it hard to believe that things like the photos like that of Hannah at the park, Hannah and Courtney kissing, or Tyler’s nude photo taken and disseminated by Clay could go viral within a school setting and not catch the attention of a single adult. The fact that things like the “Hot or Not” list or anything involving the student-run magazine would have been allowed to play out as they did.

There’s so much more to say on all of that but this is not the post. For now, I want parents to have an understanding of the show in general. As I mentioned, I will continue to break down the show in future posts.

For now, here is what parents should know about “13 Reasons Why”

Language

It seems trivial compared to the bigger picture of the show but there is a lot of foul language thrown around by both adults and teenagers in the show. Be prepared for very strong language.

Drugs and Alcohol

Partying is definitely a reoccurring scene during the run of the series. Underage drinking is depicted in just about every episode as teenagers along with recreational drug use.

Nudity

There is some slight nudity over the course of these series. This was actually one of the things that really bothered me as a viewer. I know the actors are all adults but the portrayal of supposed underage nudity was troubling. This comes in the form of a boys locker room scene and a nude photo of Tyler which is taken by Clay and distributed around the school as revenge for his role in Hannah’s suicide.

It Romanticizes Suicide

You’ll find this to be a common theme in many articles written about the show and I can’t help but agree. When people, especially teens, consider suicide, they often fantacize about the aftermath. They envision their funeral and who will attend, who will be happy to see them go and who will regret not being nicer to them when they were alive. The show fuels that fantasy as Hannah’s tapes are passed around.

The Show Does Nothing to Address Mental Illness

The show is sparking a lot of conversations, which was the intention of the author as well as the producers but I’m not sure it’s in the way they had hoped. The show does nothing to address mental illness. It would seem that Hannah is perfectly healthy and simply living in a world of sick, cold-hearted people. The show fails to address that mental illness is treatable and thoughts of suicide are often a sign of depression or other issue.

It Reinforces Victim Mentality

Hannah has created these tapes and had them sent out to specific people so that they’ll understand their role in her decision to end her life. She doesn’t take responsibility for this decision and this portrayal reinforced the victim mentality in those who blame others for their problems.

Adults Are Depicted as Incompetent

As I mentioned above, adults within the world of 13 Reasons Why are shown to be absolutely clueless about what is going on. Those who do know what is happening don’t seem to care. In the final episode, Hannah reaches out for help from her guidance counselor, telling him she was raped. His advice to her was to move on.

Sexual Assault Isn’t Implied; It’s Shown

After the publishing of the “Hot or Not” list Hannah is repeatedly harassed by her classmates, including being fondled by one in a convenience store. During a party we see a drunk Jessica being raped by Bryce and, in a later episode, Hannah’s rape by the same offender. The series doesn’t hold back and it is incredibly uncomfortable to watch. Powerful. Important. But uncomfortable.

Hannah’s Suicide Is Shown

In the book, Hannah commits suicide by overdosing on unnamed pills. The show takes a different route as Hannah cuts her wrist in the bathtub. The scene is incredibly graphic and painful to watch. It shows how she does it, where and everything in between.

WHAT PARENTS CAN DO

Talk.

It’s important to get a conversation started not only about the show, but the content. Even if your kids haven’t seen they show, they’ve heard of it. There’s a chance they may have already read the book. Find out what they know and use this to fuel constructive conversations.

Discuss what and how they feel about the show and its depiction of reality. Believe it or not, there is quite a bit that the show gets right. This is an unfortunate reality.

I will be posting more in the days to come. Possibly once or twice a week until I’ve gotten through everything I want to get out there.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit their website.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.