On Jan. 23, a ThunderRidge High School student bit into a Tide Pod brought by another student and had to be treated by school nurses, Douglas County School District said in a statement. The act is …
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On Jan. 23, a ThunderRidge High School student bit into a Tide Pod brought by another student and had to be treated by school nurses, Douglas County School District said in a statement. The act is part of a trend coined the “Tide Pod Challenge” that has made national news headlines in recent weeks.
In the challenge, individuals record themselves biting into a small gel-like pod, commonly colored blue, green and white, filled with a mixture of detergent, stain remover and color protectant. Then they post their reaction on popular social media sites like YouTube or Facebook.
During the first two weeks of 2018, the country's poison control centers responded to 39 reported cases of intentional Tide Pod ingestion among 13- to 19-year-olds, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. In the first three weeks of 2018, that number jumped to 86 cases.
Below are three things to know about the risky challenge that appears to be most popular among teenagers.
Dangers of consuming pods
Laundry detergent pods contain a mix of toxic chemicals that if ingested can cause harm to the gastrointestinal tract, lungs and nervous system, according to Dr. Robert Kramer, who specializes in pediatric gastroenterology at Children's Hospital Colorado.
Depending on the amount ingested and the pH of the product, a laundry detergent pod can compromise the breathing airway, scar the esophagus, cause respiratory failure or alter mental status, said Kramer. There is “no safe way to play around with these,” he said.
“It's really quite alarming that people would do this on purpose — kids and teenagers who are really old enough to know better,” said Kramer, adding that the behavior is typically seen in toddlers who mistake the pods for candy.
Addressing the issue
The CEO of P&G, the parent company of Tide, released a statement on Jan. 22 voicing his concerns over the new challenge.
“As a father, seeing recent examples of young people intentionally take part in self-harming challenges like ingesting large amounts of cinnamon or the so-called 'Tide Pods Challenge' is extremely concerning,” David Taylor said, first referring to a viral food challenge that hit the internet in 2001.
Tide is being proactive in stopping the trend by “ensuring social media networks are removing videos that glorify this harmful behavior” and “partnering with advocacy and industry groups to help spread the word that this is dangerous behavior not to be copied,” Taylor said.
Tide has released a public service announcement, in which Robert Gronkowski, a professional football player for the New England Patriots, urges people to not eat Tide Pods and to use the pods for their sole purpose: laundry.
YouTube is removing flagged videos of people participating in the “Tide Pod Challenge,” as it violates the company's guidelines. Several news outlets have reported that Facebook is doing the same.
“YouTube's Community Guidelines prohibit content that's intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm,” a YouTube spokesperson said in an email correspondence with Colorado Community Media. “We work to quickly remove flagged videos that violate our policies.”
Talk to your kids
Dr. Jenna Glover, licensed psychologist and director of psychology training at Children’s Hospital Colorado, encourages parents to have an ongoing conversation with their kids about social media engagement. Parents should directly talk to their children about the “Tide Pod Challenge” and its dangers, she said.
She recommends asking:
Have you thought about doing it?
What are your thoughts about it?
What can we do to support you?
“We know that when you are talking about dangerous things, it actually decreases their risk of engaging in those behaviors,” Glover said.
Common Sense Media, a website that provides unbiased information on media and technology, also recommends that parents first talk to their kids about these sorts of challenges that come to life on social media. Parents should help their children weigh the potential risks and acknowledge the peer pressure aspect that oftentimes accompanies a viral internet challenge.
“Once the conversation is open, you can get a sense of what your kid thinks about the latest craze — and if they're safe,” Common Sense Media says. “Keep an open mind and intervene if you're concerned."
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