This piece originally featured in issue 4 of Digital Parenting magazine.
How not to get hurt by internet pranks and crazes.
A heady mix of hormones, new emotions and the desire to impress peers means teenagers will always want to take risks. Most of the time, online pranks and dares are harmless. Some, like the ice bucket challenge, even raise money for charity. But others can be harmful. Websites like makeadare.com allow members to “earn street cred by completing dares and impressing friends and fans”. The incentive to gain points can cause kids to take bigger risks than they would normally. Unlike in real life, dares on these sites don’t just come from friends but from anyone who happens to be online. Many of these sites exist and there are thousands of silly dares doing the rounds other than the famous ones that go viral. It’s difficult to stop your kids getting involved in pranks and dares online, so it’s really important to make them aware of the boundary between a fun, harmless risk and a more inappropriate or dangerous one.
Talk to them about pranks and dares. Ask them what they think about them and whether they’ve ever been tempted to get involved.
Remind them that they are in control – they don’t have to do anything they don’t want to, even if peers tease them for not doing it.
Suggest they take a step back before agreeing to a dare and to ask themselves if the risk they’re taking is sensible.
Encourage them not to pass on dares and explain why doing so can lead to vulnerable young people taking unwise risks.
This article was originally written in partnership with Parent Zone