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Teenagers imitating stunts they see on YouTube wind up injured, dead

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 30th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Some popular "games" depicted on YouTube, the world's largest video Web site, are entitled jumping off a moving vehicle, salt and ice, extreme fighting, the cinnamon challenge and hitting someone over the head with a folding chair. These videos are very popular with young teenagers, who immediately copy what they see and wind up injured - or even dead.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - One 15-year-old boy, inspired by a video called "the choking game," passed out, fell forward and crashed into an empty drinking glass. His collarbone broke the glass and a shard sliced through his interior and exterior jugular vein. He died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

Other videos posted on YouTube show teens and pre-teens choking each other and beating each other to a bloody pulp. The more outrageous the stunt, the bigger audience you'll have.

One particular brand of deadly tomfoolery that has proved to be very popular is the asphyxiation-to-get-high videos are popular with young adults, teens and even preteens.

Dr. Thomas Abramo, the chief of pediatric emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has seen it all in his emergency room. Although teens have acted on risky behavior fads throughout his 30-year career, he said he's seeing trends catching on faster on account of YouTube and social media.

"If you get one kid doing it, you tend to see more kids doing it," Abramo said, who said two of his patients have died playing the choking game. "The spread of the event is definitely faster."

Abramo is alarmed with stunts involving being hit on the head with a bench or a folding chair to "see if you can take it," he said. "Fractures, concussions, lacerations," Abramo says. "Just the things you would think would happen."

"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.

While YouTube says its guidelines prohibit videos that encourage dangerous behavior, viewers are required to flag objectionable posts before they are removed.

"We count on our users to flag content they believe violates the rules," a YouTube spokesman said. "We review flagged videos around the clock and remove all those that violate our policies."

It doesn't appear to be working very well because there are plenty of these videos to watch.

As odious as the situation is, many experts say this doesn't preclude parental involvement in their child's behavior. It is important that parents talk to their teens about risky and foolhardy behavior.

Dr. Carol Bernstein, a psychiatry professor at New York University's Langone Medical Center, said she doesn't think YouTube alone is to blame for teens engaging in foolhardy acts because many factors are involved. She said other environmental factors, physiology, and temperament contribute to a child's decision to emulate a video.

"Stress here should be on knowing our children, watching behaviors and having conversations with them," Bernstein said. "There's no substitute for parents and teachers who are engaging with their kids in general."

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