‘Digital Dares’: TikTok challengers risk danger, destruction for a chance to be included, noticed

Local News

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — One local social media expert says doing dares for their friends is nothing new for kids.

But unlike previous generations, it’s easy to post these dares on social media for possibly millions to see; it’s being done for likes, for followers and to entertain. This is a trend that we’re seeing take place locally, too.

News 8 obtained a letter from the Penfield Central School District last week, which said:

“In our case, this is happening in our restrooms to the point that they can’t be used without extensive cleaning and replacement/repair... Not only does this take our custodial staff away from their work, but it creates an unsafe environment for those simply trying to use the restroom.

Assistant Professor Katrina M. Overby at Rochester Institute of Technology, who studies social media, “Black Twitter,” its culture and phenomena — and the occasional meme — calls these “digital dares.”

“I’m not too surprised or shocked, but I think teens are really looking for an outlet during this time,” Overby said. “We’ve seen an uptick in these sorts of challenges that result in dangerous consequences that they may or may not be aware of. And I think they’re using social media as a place to feel accepted, to feel included, and to gain followers or new friends in a space outside where they currently live.”

Overby adds that the pandemic has limited ways that kids and teens can get together, blow off steam in healthy and non-destructive ways.

“I believe these challenges — or ‘digital dares’ — are taking the fun and game of playing truth or dare… And so they’re finding new ways to challenge their friends to not do very smart things,” Overby said. “And often times they’re not thinking about the consequences, either for themselves of for the people who find themselves on the other side of the challenge.”

Overby believes this content is being seen not just by teens, the group more likely to be participating in these challenges, but by younger children as well. She says check-ins with parents can mitigate what they’re exposed to, have a conversation about what they participate in.

Overby goes one step further and also says that parents can get a TikTok app to see what is out there that their kids might be consuming… But adds the warning to parents that they shouldn’t become a “hovering parent.”

“Showing interest in your children and what they are engaging is important, and you can suggest other media for them to engage with,” Overby said.

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