The world of the internet never ceases to amaze me and what people, kids especially, are willing to do to achieve their 15 minutes of fame is even more shocking. I received an e-mail from a concerned parent in Connecticut this morning about a new trend in schools called “The Eraser Challenge”. Coincidentally, I had just seen a news report about this very issue.
Join me now in a massive eye roll as I explain the “challenge”:
To play the game, players will use an eraser and rub it back and forth on their arm between the wrist and elbow while reciting the alphabet and coming up with a word for each letter. Once they reach the letter Z, the opponents will compare their wounds.
It seems that this trend has existed for some time over the past year but is now gaining national attention after the game started growing in popularity among students at Bethel Middle School in Connecticut.
A quick look at YouTube shows this to be a rather viral trend with severe consequences prompting many participants to upload subsequent videos showing lasting scars as a result of participating in the challenge.
A Google search brings up graphic images of severe bleeding as a result of taking part as well as a handful of blog entries reporting trips to the hospital requiring stitches.
Despite the harm done, teens continue to participate, record and share the challenge in an effort to gain internet fame through YouTube, Tumblr, Vine, Instagram and other social networking sites.
School administrators and physicians are concerned about the residual effects of this behavior. Aside from the immediate bodily harm being done, there is the concern that this could be a gateway into further self-harm down the road, including “cutting” behavior.
Additionally, with students breaking their skin while performing the challenge and then sharing the eraser with fellow participants, there is an increased chance of sharing bodily fluids and also infections as a result.
What Parents Can Do
For many that have attended my parent and community workshops, this advice is going to sound very familiar: TALK TO YOUR KIDS!
It is important when issues like this arise that parents get on board with having a conversation with their kids about what is going on in the world. Have it be just that: a conversation.
On the drive home from school or maybe over dinner, bring up The Eraser Challenge and ask your kids if they have heard about this.
If ‘yes’ ask them if they understand what the risks of these behaviors are and encourage them to talk to you or their teachers if they hear about their classmates participating.
If ‘no’ I still encourage an open dialogue about the issue. Many parents worry that by telling them about it, they will be giving their kids the idea to get involved in it. I believe the opposite to be true. By having the conversation they now know that this is something on your radar and that you’ll be looking out for this behavior (the marks are impossible to hide save for long sleeves).
Keeping an open and honest dialogue with your kids about this and any issue is the best bet to prevent problems in the future.
What Educators Can Do
In times like these, it truly takes a village to work together in an effort to lead our children down the best path possible.
Vigilance between classes and during any downtime throughout the school day is a must. Health classes may be the best place to discuss issues surrounding blood borne illnesses and diseases, risk of infections and scarring as a result in participating in the challenge.
Share current news stories and encourage open discussions amongst students about these and other events affecting their generation.
If an incident does occur at the school, it’s best to have an educated discussion with the perpetrators rather than figuring out punishment. Keep parents informed and share information through e-mails and letters home to help curb this behavior before more serious incidents occur.
As always, if you have a questions about a web site or app send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you an answer!
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.