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Going Viral: When Likes And Followers Trump Safety

Two teenagers pose for a TikTok video they're filming to go viral

Climbing a stack of milk crates. Holding your breath to black out. Swallowing food without chewing. Downing two bananas and a liter of Sprite. Cooking chicken in NyQuil. Seriously, what's next? Everywhere we turn there's another eye-rolling or panic-inducing trend sweeping social media sites, offering the chance of going viral as the prize for experiencing suffering.

It'd be one thing if these viral videos were harmless. Wouldn't we laugh watching our kids making little fools of themselves as they mimicked these trends? Let's face it though; this kind of viral content isn't safe or laughable. It's downright dangerous, yet kids and teens seem more than ready to ditch caution for the chance to be the next internet sensation.

News Headlines Show the Dangerous Results of TikTok Challenges

How do we respond when the promise of going viral tries to trump safety?

Before we dig into "how" we should respond, let's get into the "why" behind these viral videos. After all, how in the world is going viral tempting our kids to throw caution away?


1) Going Viral Boosts Your Kid's Social Media Ego

Guess what? Kids today are going up in a totally different world than we did. Oh, you already knew that? Our bad!

All jokes aside, the reality is social media has changed the very essence of how our kids make and connect with friends.

Social media creates a feeling of community unlike any before.

Through Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, or the hundreds of other social media platforms they use, today's kids can connect with someone else on the other side of the world in a matter of minutes. This isn't necessarily bad!

Especially for kids that struggle to make friends in real life, their online friendships can provide the sense of value and belonging that's missing in their offline world. Even for kids that have steady "real-life" relationships, social media deepens their connection as more and more of their lives are lived out online.

Going viral boosts their popularity and helps them fit in.

Think back to when you were a teen. Didn't you feel desperate to fit in? To belong somewhere? It doesn't matter that our kids are growing up in a completely different world than we did, that desire remains the same.

In fact, social media might just have taken it a step further. What if your popularity could extend beyond your school? What if millions of people could find you hilarious, brave, or talented? There lies the temptation that pulls your kid toward going viral. One video might push them to internet fame, increasing their popularity within their online and offline social circles and giving their ego a boost. This hope of accumulating millions of likes and views as an internet sensation can propel them to hop on the latest trend, no matter how dangerous it is.


2) Blame Biology For Wanting to Go Viral

Ever heard of the prefrontal cortex? If you haven't, don't fear! Simply put, it's the part of the brain that processes risk and decision-making. Unfortunately for us as parents, it doesn't fully develop until the age of 25, long after our kids have become adults. That means we're tasked with the job of raising humans who literally can't make the wisest decisions. It's just biology.

So, what does this have to do with going viral?

Well, everything. Our kids see how going viral on social media boosts popularity and start longing for it themselves. Remember, they just want to fit in, and creating a viral video might seem like the opportunity they've been waiting for. With this temptation tugging at them and biology hindering them from making truly rational decisions, our kids might just throw caution to the wind and decide to jump on the latest trend.

The riskier the challenge, the better.

Wouldn't it be great for us parents if going viral involved something simple and safe? Unfortunately, the most viral videos are typically the dangerous ones. The way your kid sees it, the greater the risk, the greater the potential of going viral if they can nail the challenge.


So what do you do? How do you protect your kid from throwing their safety away in the hope of going viral?


You need to stay ahead of the trends.

This is where the rubber meets the road and it's going to require some homework on your part. We know time is a parent's most precious commodity but investing just a little into some research of what's going viral might just make all the difference between safety and danger for your kid.

Take a few moments out of your day and hop on TikTok to check out what trending topics and videos are on there. Or, if you're even more crunched for time, simply Google it! In just a few minutes, you'll be able to see exactly what's going viral across all the social media platforms.

Armed with your knowledge, have an open discussion with your kid.

Choose a comfortable time and setting to take them aside and chat over what you've seen. Make sure you keep the conversation casual as you talk over what you've seen going viral.

  • Go over what trends your kid knows about.

  • Ask what they think about the viral videos and if they're tempted to try them.

  • Discuss the safety risks involved and why attempting it isn't a good idea.

  • Encourage them to take part in other fun and safe trends.


At the end of the day, it all comes down to a two-sided discussion about viral videos.

Remember that your kid's brain isn't quite developed enough to fully process rational decision-making and that the temptation of increasing their popularity by going viral is natural. Work to be their guide towards safe decisions. Better yet, go one step further and join your kid in the fun and safe trends. Silly dances? Why not! Lip syncing? Sure thing! By actively taking part in your kid's online life, you encourage them to make wise decisions and strengthen the bond that you have.


The Aqua One smartphone makes it easier than ever to say involved in your kid's online life.

If you're longing for insight into what your kid is viewing online, the Aqua One is the answer. The smartphone syncs seamlessly with your Parent Dashboard to mirror every action your kid takes on the phone. Yes, every action. Every time they view a video or post online or do anything else, you can see it in the dashboard. It's involvement made easy so that you can guide your kid to staying safe online.

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