Emergency rooms are seeing more and more teens with injuries that result from emulating things they see on YouTube videos that include the choking game, and other more innocuous-sounding but deadly games such as the "cinnamon challenge," the "salt-and-ice challenge," "chubby bunny" and even extreme fighting.
Dr. Thomas Abramo, the chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said he sees all of it in his ER. Although teens have acted on risky behavior fads throughout his 30-year career, he said he's seeing trends catch on faster than ever before, and he thinks it's because of YouTube and social media.
"If you get one kid doing it, you tend to see more kids doing it," said Abramo, who said two of his patients have died playing the choking game. "The spread of the event is definitely faster."
"Once you see some of these videos, you go, 'Oh my God,'" the doctor said. The "Darwin award" videos, which involve varying dangerous challenges, are the worst he's seen. "Survival of the stupidest. I can't believe it happens. It defies logic," Abramo said.
YouTube's guidelines prohibit content that encourages dangerous behavior, but 72 hours of new video are uploaded each minute, according to YouTube statistics, making it difficult to prevent dangerous content being posted.
Dr. Alan Hilfer, a child psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center, said he thinks the existing videos validate risky behavior for teens and give them a way to get notoriety if they post a video.