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Tech & Media

A Stupid TikTok Challenge is Starting Electrical Fires and Causing Damage

Jan 22, 2020

When I was a teen, I did some incredibly stupid things.

My friends used to play the “choke game” which was, in retrospect, not really a game at all. Someone would “gently” cut off your oxygen supply by pressing on your throat until you passed out.

Stupid, right? Absolutely.

One of my best friends hit his head so hard, we were certain he was dead. I was always too afraid to play, so I just watched and then would try to catch the person as they — almost inevitably — started falling to the ground.

We also used to go up to the top of a hill on our bikes and ride down, but here was the catch: we weren’t allowed to have our hands on the handles, and we had to trust our friend at the base of the hill to ensure no cars were coming. Because the goal was to breeze right through the busy intersection before the lights turned from green to red.

Again, we could have died. Easily. I wasn’t afraid to do this one, and I — in my life — have put myself into many situations where I could easily be struck by a car.

Because kids don’t always think clearly. Kids can be idiots. I was an idiot.

None of us did die, though. We broke bones, sustained major and minor injuries and I’d love to say it taught us to slow down. But we were kids, and we chased the rush again and again.

So, it should come as no surprise that in 2020, with the eyes of the internet as their witness, teens are looking for quick thrills, too. Usually this means kids do some silly dance challenge, or get their hair and makeup done by someone with a one-star review on Yelp, or eat a ghost pepper.

But there's a new challenge on TikTok — it's potentially dangerous, but it's very accessible and simple, which is likely why people are doing it. You plug in your phone charger and leave space so it is not completely plugged in. Then you drag a penny across the metal or drop it into the space between the wall and the plug until you create sparks.

The objective is to just capture this on video, because it’s a “challenge.” In many cases, the result is damage to walls, electrical surges and fires. And a cool video, depending on who you ask.

The reality is, parents can only be so present. There are going to be things happening you’ll never know about and you know that. Because you were a teen too once, and you probably did some stuff like smoke a cigarette, drink underage, go to a party where there were drugs, make a prank phone call and, I don’t know, steal gum from a Becker’s.

But this is your house they are potentially going to set on fire, so it’s good for you to know what some teens are doing right now on TikTok. It’s extremely unlikely that we’re looking at a wave of five-alarm fires (fingers crossed), but that doesn’t mean this isn’t a good time to sit your tweens and teens down for a conversation about fire safety. And pride of ownership. And how people die from electrocution. 

Another thing you might want to bring up is the permanence of fire. It destroys things, including their things. And some things can't be replaced. Once something burns down, it is sadly not coming back — at least not how you remember it.

Loss is a language we can all relate to, no matter the age.

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