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To die for: The Skull Breaker challenge is the latest fad on the Internet

With the potentially deadly Skull Breaker challenge all the rage, how far will we go to indulge our need for thrills? SHOBHANA RAO explores

Shobhana Rao | Updated on: Saturday, February 22, 2020, 09:53 PM IST

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It’s dangerous, deadly and can actually break one's skull. The Skull Breaker, the latest internet challenge doing the rounds, has landed many with a broken leg, spine and even skull!

Supposedly originated in Spain, the game is played between three people who jump in the air together but the two on the side kick inwards to knock the person in the middle off his feet and onto his head. The injuries caused by the fall have been reportedly fatal.

Viral thrills

The internet is flooded with challenges of all kinds. While the harmless ones like the Ice Bucket and Plank are fun and sporty, the more bizarre ones like the Kiki, Blue Whale and now Skull Breaker have resulted in nothing less than serious injuries and trauma.

What is it about the latter that finds an audience, especially among young adults, despite them not being fun at all? We attempt to decode the reasons behind this ‘fatal attraction’, and also find ways to nip it in the bud…

Inside the mind of the player

Developing Brain: The self-monitoring, problem-solving and decision-making part of the brain — the prefrontal cortex — is still developing in a teen. Which explains why they may lack self-control or good judgement and are more prone to risk-taking behaviours.

“At that age, they want to ride the bike fast, run fast and do things which are daring, attention-seeking and thrilling. They are just out to seek excitement,” says Dr Harish Shetty, a well-known psychiatrist in Mumbai.

He adds, “Some years ago, the choking game was a rage where you choked your/ somebody else’s neck with a rope till a certain high - of the rush of the blood to the brain - was felt. If the rope was not released in time, you had it. So these are passing fads, which if not carefully monitored, can result in huge setbacks.”

Peer pride

“Peer pressure is also at play here,” says Dr Heena Merchant-Pandit, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Sion Hospital, Mumbai. “It’s basically to show others that even I can do it; a sense of superiority is felt. So sometimes, despite knowing it’s dangerous, they want to do it as once done, they get applauded for it.”

Seeking validation

Depression, loneliness and low self-esteem are other reasons why teens take to online challenges. “The internet is a place you can hide behind everything. It’s an easy way of expressing oneself without being criticised or judged. The validation they get by being part of such activities is something they don’t get in real life,” reveals Dr Heena.

Stop kidding!

So, how can one make sure youngsters don't succumb to these deadly internet stunts?

Communicate

“Talk, talk and talk,” insists Dr Heena. “Most of the times, these things happen because parents don’t talk enough to their children. A growing teen automatically withdraws simply because it’s a natural part of growing up. More than the parents, it’s the friends and peers that matter to them. So parents and teachers should go out of their way to talk to children.”

Don’t control

“Know where they are, emotionally and physically, without being controlling so they feel safe to share their stories with you,” says actor Madhoo Shah, mother to two teenagers. She adds, “You need to assure your kids that if they do get into any kind of trouble, they can come to you because you are the best option for them.”

Channelise energies

“Expose kids to positive thrill-seeking experiences - taking part in sports, annual day activities, helping others, nation-building etc,” avers Dr Harish.

Know it’s a crime

Knowledge of the consequence is also very important, both for the parent and the kid. “Such acts are also an attempt to murder or injure under the JJ (Juvenile Justice) Act. Children need to be told that they can be arrested when they harm someone, even if it’s a game. Simply put, it’s no thrill, it’s an offence,” adds Dr Harish.

Internet challenges can be fun and fascinating but they can also be freaky and fatal. It pays for parents and educators to channelise their wards’ thrill-seeking energies into safe and constructive activities. And this can start young. A hike, swim or game of football is sure to give your young one the same, if not more, adrenalin rush.

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Published on: Sunday, February 23, 2020, 07:15 AM IST