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.

Not Exempt From the Rules: Donald Trump Could Be Banned From Twitter

Our President-Elect is probably best known for his outrageous use of the popular micro-blogging site Twitter and I have certainly shared my annoyance with this on my personal blog.

Recent Tweets from Trump might be landed him in hot water with Twitter as his bullying tactics have entered the realm of violating the site’s terms of service which could get Mr. President-Elect banned for life.

Twitter’s Terms state that users “may not incite or engage in the targeted abuse or harassment of others”. It makes clear that it will consider a range of factors when deciding whether to lock or ban someone’s account – including whether the reported account is being “one-sided or includes threats”, or is “inciting others to harass another account”.

The following tweet directed towards an Indianapolis Chuck Jones has raised eyebrows regarding Donald’s social media usage.


Following the tweet Jones began receiving threatening phone calls and messages.

This tweet and the abuse that followed closely echoes the behavior that saw Brietbart contributor Milo Yiannopoulos being banned from Twitter earlier this year. He was permanently banned from having an account on the site because he sent public messages harassing Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones which led to an onslaught of racial slurs and hate speech from others.

From any standpoint this kinds of behavior is troubling from the man who would be President and it’s sending a poor message to all that this is an acceptable way to act whether online or off. This has been a major issue for me since Donald announced his campaign and moreso now that he has won. What kind of example is his setting for our youth?

Regardless, this is certainly a fantastic “teachable moment” as we move towards the holiday break and a reminder for all to be respectful towards one another both online and off.

What are your thoughts on Trump’s almost obsessive use of twitter?

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.

Viral Obituary Encourages All to Ask For Help

An obituary written for 22-year-old Clay Shepard that after his death in 2015 has gone viral. It’s a message of love from his family who’s message for everyone is that is never wrong to ask for help.

The obituary describes Clay’s death of drug overdose and tells of his family’s love and support during several attempts at rehab.

I encourage all to take a moment to read and share this powerful message.

Here is the full obituary via Legacy.com:

Our charismatic and beautiful son and brother died Sunday morning from a drug overdose. Clay was the youngest of four children, raised in a loving home in Apex with two brothers and one sister. Outwardly Clay looked like he had it all: Intelligence, confidence, athletic ability, height, beautiful blue eyes, broad smile, fantastic wit, and the ability to engage and forge a relationship with anyone. Inwardly Clay was sensitive and had struggles that he hid well from his close and clannish family.We loved Clay with all of our hearts, but we now know that was not enough to shield him from the world. This note isn’t an attempt to assign blame for Clay’s death. It’s not to vent our anger and frustration at a world where drugs can be ordered and delivered through the internet. We write this obituary in hope that it may provide an insight to those that need to change their behavior one night at a time. Clay was a solid student, decent athlete, and a very likeable kid. With his seemingly endless positive traits, he had the potential to be anything from a captivating politician to a brilliant engineer, but drugs began to creep into Clay’s life while he was in high school. As trouble hit, his father stepped in and forged an incredible bond with Clay. Although Clay could never be completely honest about the trouble he was in, his love and respect for his father became a lifeline over the last few years. He successfully completed drug rehab several times, but the craving that comes from true addiction was more than he could overcome. 

While we always felt we had some grip on Clay’s issues, his ability to hide and disguise his addiction proved superior to our parental (and sibling) sixth sense. The worry that we have felt watching Clay struggle, has been replaced by a deep feeling of loss that now exists knowing we will never see his smiling face again. Despite these troubles, we can smile knowing that the last communication we had with Clay was a text and answer between mother and son to say “I love you”, just as it should be. 

To all children, this note is a simple reminder that there are people who love you, with everything they have and no matter what you do – don’t be too afraid/ashamed/scared, too anything, to ask for help. To all parents, pay attention to your children and the world that revolves around them – even when the surface is calm, the water may be turbulent just beneath. Clay’s struggles have ended. He is finally at peace. We will miss his keen sense of humor, impersonations, cooking, plant advice and rhythm on the dance floor. 

Goodbye Clay, we love you and miss you dearly. 

Mom & Dad, Cole, Wade & Jess, Jean & Lucas

For more information about talking to your kids about substance abuse you can read from the archives: “Cory Monteith: Lessons From Tragedy

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.

Explaining Tragedy: Talking to Your Kids About Current Events

This is, truthfully, a topic I have been avoiding writing about. I’ve been asked about it many times and I just haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. The events of the past month haven’t really changed my mind but have certainly proved that it has to be done.

It would seem that the world has gone insane and adults aren’t the only ones paying attention. Recent events have had a ripple effect for those all over the world and with the internet and a 24/7 news cycle, there’s really no escaping it. In my own backyard we witnessed the tragic murder of singer Christina Gimmie following a concert. Within almost 24 hours we were hearing news of a mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub.

Since then we’ve seen violence across the country and all around the world.

As we are bombarded with the news of these events, it can be a lot to take. For me personally, it has been overwhelming.

In today’s connected age, kids are receiving news and information about these events more than ever.  This information shows up in the form of snapchat filters, news clips, instagram posts, facebook updates. While the internet and social media has many upsides, I’ve seen a lot of down in the recent weeks.

The biggest issue has been the sharing of insider footage, looking at this events as they unfold through shared video that may not always been the most appropriate for young eyes. With a large number of kids with personal devices like cell phones and laptops, parents can’t always be around as they are receiving news of tragic events.

Bigger still is the slew of misinformation that can pop up following these events.

It’s a lot for adults to handle and process, more so for younger minds.

Regardless of age, upsetting news can affect kids emotionally. Feelings of anxiety, worry, anger, fear and guilt are all common and many times these feelings linger long after the story has left the news cycle.

So what can you do as a parent? As always, I have gathered the best information I can from life experience and, of course, a little bit of internet research. As I continue to sort through my own feelings and reactions in this time, I can’t even begin to imagine having to explain to a child what is going on.

For Elementary (Ages 10 an Younger)

Turn it Off: I’m not suggesting an ostrich approach but I highly recommend keeping the images of these events away from young eyes. My biggest pet peeve with social media and even the news is the tendency to broadcast the worst. After the Boston Marathon bombings and Pulse, we saw the same footage of victims over and over again, bloody, crying, scared. These are images no one should have to witness, especially young eyes.

Be Together and Stress Safety: If the topics is brought up, enforce the idea of safety with your kids. Explain to them the protective measures that are in place to help keep them safe. Be sure to listen to them and take care not to belittle their fears. Provide distraction and physical comfort (nothing beat a tight hug and a good Disney movie. This goes for everyone).

For Middle Schoolers (Age 11-13)

Be Available for Conversations: I have often said that this group is my favorite to teach because I’m reaching them at a time that they are discovering their own morals and beliefs. It’s important to keep that thought in mind when it comes to events like what we have seen recently.  You may need to take stock in your own beliefs in times of events such as the Pulse Shooting or the shootings in Michigan and Dallas.

Trust that what you say in these conversations will stick with your kids for their rest of their lives. It’s important to explain the basics of prejudice, civil and religious strife and bias towards others. Be very careful of broad generalizations.  Make sure you have the facts straight and don’t be afraid to admit if you’re sure about something. Kids are going to take your words to heart.

Ask them what they know and have a constructive conversation from there. There’s a good chance they have pulled information from the web or from friends and there may be a need to correct information before something wrong is ingrained in them as fact.

Talk About the News: It’s an unfortunate truth that our news outlets are more interested in competing for viewership than they are simply providing the information. As a result many can be found to rush information before the facts are straight, or go straight to broadcasting images far too grisly to be decent. Make your kids aware of this and take care to limit their exposure. Same for when it comes to the internet. Make sure you are aware of what they are looking at while online when it comes to coverage of these events.

For High Schoolers (Ages 14+)

Check In Early And Often: With a device in the hands of almost every teen, there’s a good chance that they have learned of these events independent of you (in some cases, even before you). Be sure to check in with them and talk about what is going on. This can help you gain a sense of what they have already absorbed. Take their insights to heart and share your own (taking care not to dismiss their budding beliefs and sense of morality).

Encourage Them To Express Themselves: Everyone deals with tragedy differently and is affects us all whether we are directly involved or not. Most everyone knows Orlando. It’s the theme park capital of the world and home to the Most Magical Place on Earth. Hearing of events such as the shooting at Pulse or the death of Lane Graves at the Grand Floridian Resort at Disney is sure to trigger something. They are aware of what is going on in the world and more so of the unfortunate truth that their own lives could be affected by violence.

Listen openly to their concerns and address them as best you can without dismissing them entirely. If you disagree with something in the news or media, explain that to your teens and help them discover appropriate mediums through which to receive information.

For Everyone

Not All Kids Are the Same: Remember that no one kid is the same. Your elementary student may be more advanced and in tune with the world. I’ve created the best guide I can but I rely on your own knowledge of your child on how to tackle these issues.

Keep Positive: Oh boy. Okay. Here’s the tough one and I’ll be completely honest that I’m struggling here as well. On June 12 I lost three friends at Pulse Nightclub. The pain in my heart from not just that loss but an attack on my home, on my community, has been a burden. From there the news cycle has been non-stop with more and more stories of violence and pain. The American flag has spent more time at half-mast this past month than fully raised. It’s a lot.

As I sit and reflect on all of this. As I reflect on what I saw and experience in Boston following the marathon, I can see hope. I can see how we come together to be better and stronger.

There is a quote from Fred Rogers that has been tossed around a lot, especially here in Orlando, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

Make sure that your kids are seeing the stories of the helpers. Those lining up to give blood. Those on the front lines doing what they can. Those making donations of clothing, food, money and time to help those in need.

More importantly, show them. Be kind to those around. Teach them that way of the world.

Be kind to one another.

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.

Krispy Kreme Promotes “KKK Wednesday” on Facebook

It’s that time of the week! Another fantastic teachable moment born of my one simple philosophy, “TAKE TIME TO THINK!”

A Krispy Kreme Donut location in the United Kingdom released a weeklong series of in-store events to bring in business during the midterm break for students. Included in the activities are board-games, face painting and coloring pages.

On Wednesday, however, the week of fun took a turn with a promotion entitled “Krispy Kreme Klub Wednesday” which was meant to be a day for kids to come in a decorate their own donuts. The event title was shortened to “KKK Wednesday”.

KKK is, of course, more infamously associated with the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist hate group. Users following the location on Facebook were quick to point this out once the advertisement went live.


The gaffe apparently went unnoticed by the creator of the advertisement (seen here) and all those who approved it.KrispyKreme

“We do believe this was a completely unintentional oversight on the part of our longtime franchise partners in the U.K.,” according to a statement released by company spokesperson Lafeea Watson and I completely agree.

This was an honest, yet completely avoidable mistake if everyone involved had taken those few extra moments to think and look at the bigger picture.

The event was isolated to the singular store in Hull, United Kingdom and all promotion materials have since been removed from official social media for the store. That hasn’t stopped this story from going viral, earning it world-wide attention.

“We are truly sorry for any inconvenience or offense this misstep may have caused our fans,” the company statement says, also noting that the location would be “taking greater precautions with their publicity materials in the future.”

So again I ask everyone to learn from this mistake and always remember to Take Time To Think!

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 The Eraser Challenge

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.Pencil_eraser

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 info@joshgunderson.com 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.