The digital environment in which we are currently immersed has completely transformed the way we connect or interact. The missing Tuenti, or Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp have changed our lives, becoming common platforms to communicate with friends and family. Moreover, entertainment is also an internet thing and in recent years, TikTok has stood out among all.
Creating, editing and uploading short musical selfies is all the rage now. To this end, the platform was born which, given the importance and the massive use of the Internet by adolescents, above all, has established itself as the ideal means to achieve the so-called challenges or ” viral challenges.
Jessica Ortega, member of the UNIR Cyberpsychology Research Group and expert in viral challenges on the Internet, defines them as “actions that users propose (dances, jokes, challenges…) and record for others to see and reproduce. Thus, depending on the interest it arouses, it becomes viral due to the massive diffusion of the Internet and the tendency of human beings to imitate the behavior of others, especially in adolescence.
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This research group was already studying the phenomenon of challenges before the pandemic, “but after the confinement there was a massive demand for TikTok, becoming the star network in 2020 with more than 115.2 million downloads. It is made to succeed. These are short, highly personalized videos with endless and changing themes. So there’s no room for boredom,” perfect traits for teenage success.
Most are harmless, but more and more challenges are emerging that can endanger the physical and psychological integrity of people, many of whom are minors. “Adolescence is a stage of sensation seeking, encounters, and viral challenges allow you to do both. In this phase, friends are the most important thing and family takes second place,” says Jessica, so young people register challenges with the aim of being valued by their group of friends, not feeling excluded. and be popular. Because now, popularity is measured in likes, followers and comments.
From the Cyberpsychology domain of UNIR, they classify the challenges as social, which occupy 80.3% and do not involve any risk, “they are those that are recorded for fun, such as the dance Chicken Teriyaki Challenge from Rosalía’s song” ; solidarity (20.6%), which aim to raise awareness and help. This would be the case of the “Ice Bucket Challenge”, popularized years ago to raise awareness of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; and finally, and most worryingly, the simultaneous realization of innocuous social challenges and dangerous challenges (15.3%).
Lo damos todo jaja 🤣 #chickenteriyaki @La Rosalia ❤️
Among the highlights of recent months are the “48 hours disappeared”, which consists of disappearing without a trace for two days, or “El cascarón”, in which users eat all kinds of shell foods (eggs, sweets with the packaging …), with the risks of obstruction and choking that this type of behavior entails.
But what are the motivations that drive young people to get involved in challenges, putting the culture of ‘like’ above life? “They don’t have the ability to really think about the risks. This desire to experience new sensations leads them to act impulsively without falling into the consequences. If you put a scale on being popular and getting a lot of likes even if something bad happens, that makes up for them.”
According to Jessica, teenagers don’t have this capacity for reflection and “that’s precisely the work that we do from prevention and critical thinking. Because it’s not about doing viral challenges for no reason, but rather about whether it’s better not to do it, if it hurts you, hurts another person, hurts you, hurts another, incites hatred…”.
And to develop this type of reflection, it is essential to carry out prevention work on all fronts, at home and at school. “If you don’t give teenagers certain guidelines, they can be lost, which is why we work with various programs in schools.” As for families, Jessica advises using networks with young people. “We give them the technology but don’t teach them how to use it properly. It would be very positive to use the platforms to indicate what they can and cannot do or should do. Make rules with them.
Because networks aren’t harmful, neither is TikTok. In fact, there are studies that confirm its positive effect on education. “There are certain challenges that consist of solving mathematical problems or answering questions of geography or general culture… In the end, it all depends on the use we make of them.” This expert also recommends putting yourself in their shoes because “from our point of view, we are not going to understand it. It is essential to ensure the well-being of minors through education, communication, awareness and prevention, but more than worrying, we must take care of ourselves”.