Should Parents Really Be Scared of the 'Skullbreaker Challenge'?

It’s a string of words designed to make any parent worried: dangerous social media challenge. This time, however, it’s not Tide Pods or the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge that’s making parents worry. This time, however, it’s the skullbreaker challenge, also being called the “tripping jump” challenge. It goes like this: three people stand in a line, and the two outside people jump. The person in the middle is told to jump next and is then, often unwittingly, tripped mid-jump, forcing them to fall back on their head, hence the “skullbreaker” part.

At least one teen has gone to the hospital after falling victim to the prank. Now, the family of the south Florida girl is considering suing the school. Another example that is being widely circulated shows two teens in Saudi Arabia taping themselves doing the challenge, causing officials there to have to weigh in. In the U.S, Doctors, as well as media watch groups, have also spoken out against the challenge.

“Social media challenges range from perfectly harmless to very dangerous. Where before we’d see these challenges roll out on YouTube, the latest platform to give rise to these challenges — even encourage them — is TikTok,” Sierra Filucci, Editorial Director at Common Sense, tells SheKnows. “Many of the challenges you see on TikTok are fun and harmless – like the Renegade dance that every teenager is doing right now. But others, like the Skullbreaker Challenge, can cause physical harm and encourage bullying”

But if you look at TikTok for examples of the Skullbreaker challenge, you’ll see most are already people tagging posts warning people not to do it. The warning videos are also global, with nurses in Germany and office workers in India making their own low-budget PSAs. The outrage about the challenge, in other words, seems to be bigger than the challenge itself. In that way, it feels reminiscent of last year’s Momo Challenge, which turned out to be a social media prank gone wrong instead of something posing danger to children. In this case, of course, there are actual examples of the challenge, but it doesn’t seem like the beginning of a true trend.

While it’s easy to laugh at credulous parents when a scary trend warning gains more momentum than the trend itself, it is also important to remember that the internet is a scary place and, even in 2020, there are frighteningly few protections for kids. And while your kids might not be in real and present danger of falling victim to the Skullbreaker challenge, it doesn’t mean you should simply ignore it and move on. It’s also a good chance to talk with your kids about how they use TikTok, the kinds of challenges they see on there, and how they decide what to participate in or skip. Filucci even recommends role-playing with kids so they can practice what they would say to friends who might ask them to participate in a video that might mock or bully someone.

“Parents should make every effort to stay involved in their kids’ lives — including their online lives — with a curious, not critical approach,” Filucci says, adding, “These kinds of dangerous challenges get lots of attention for a short period of time, but that doesn’t usually correlate to a large number of people participating in them — these are just the ones that make parents the most scared.” In other words, challenges like this can give you and your kids the chance to become critical consumers of media as well as the reporting on it. Too bad there’s no catch hashtag for that challenge. 


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