Dangerous and Harmful TikTok Trends to Talk About with Your Kids

Words by
Jackie Baucom

MAY 15, 2024

Dangerous and Harmful TikTok Trends to Talk About with Your Kids

With over 1 billion monthly active users, TikTok videos are viewed by millions, and viral trends emerge. There’s no denying that the app provides easily-accessible videos that are often catchy and funny, but many are also dangerous. 

With 67% of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 using TikTok, parents should be aware of the serious risks promoted by the app. Through conversations and rules, we can protect our children from these dangers. 

57% of TikTokers between the ages of 13 and 17 use the app daily.

Pew Research Center

What are TikTok Challenges?

TikTok challenges arise when TikTokers are called upon by other users to create content copying a specific task with its accompanying hashtag. Anyone can start a challenge or a hashtag, but not all will become viral trends. Challenges often become a popular TikTok trend when celebrities with large followings participate. 

Some challenges are adorable, such as recreating a baby picture to the tune of “I’m just a kid” by Simple Plan. 

Others are hilarious, like “Andy’s Coming!” shouted in a public place while the participants fall to the ground as a nod to the movie “Toy Story” where the toys play dead when their owner Andy is coming.

Some trending TikTok hashtags are so bizarre, it’s hard to believe they’re real. Take the Sleepy Chicken TikTok trend for example. TikTok creators are encouraged to cook chicken marinated in cough syrup.

The greenish hue of the chicken does not look appetizing, and the concentrated medicine would definitely be an overdose. There’s little evidence that anyone has actually consumed this chicken, but the TikTok hashtag keeps trending every few months.

Never assume a child will not try a TikTok challenge.

All kids are susceptible to engaging in risky behavior. Part of normal development for a young person includes learning to master impulsivity, peer pressure, and a desire to one-up a friend no matter the cost. 

Deadly TikTok Challenges

Some TikTok challenges are more than just harmful, they’re potentially deadly. Below are several challenges that parents should definitely be aware of.


The One Chip Challenge

This challenge was promoted by Paqui, an American brand of tortilla chips. It involves eating a single chip made with Carolina Reaper peppers, which are known as the hottest peppers in the world.

The Problem:

  • When a teen died in 2023 soon after participating in the challenge, Paqui pulled the product off store shelves.
  • Extremely spicy food can cause vomiting, diarrhea, heart problems, and even damage to the esophagus.
  • Paqui’s chips came with a warning label that stated only adults should consume it, yet children and teens were able to get their hands on it.

The Skullbreaker Challenge

This challenge involves three people standing side by side. The middle person is told they are all taking a jumping photo, while the two others are in on the prank. Just as the middle person jumps in the air, those standing on either side kick the jumper’s legs from under them, causing a backwards fall. 

The Problem:

  • Forceful trauma to the neck and head have been reported.
  • It has resulted in spinal cord injuries and paralysis.
  • Deaths have occurred due to traumatic head injuries.
  • Participants have been charged with aggravated assault.

The Blackout Challenge

Also referred to as the choking or pass-out challenge, TikTokers are encouraged to choke themselves or hyperventilate until they blackout, then film their adrenaline rush as they regain consciousness.

The Problem:

  • This practice deprives the brain of oxygen.
  • Three minutes without oxygen can cause serious brain damage.
  • Five minutes without oxygen can cause death.
  • In the last 18 months this challenge has been linked to several deaths of kids 12 and younger.

The Chroming Challenge: AKA #Whiptok

An unfortunate and dangerous challenge called “chroming” involves inhaling toxic fumes from aerosol or paint cans with the intention of getting high. Users on Tiktok can track down videos of chroming by searching the hashtag “Whiptok.” Such a moniker prevents the harmful content from being removed by Tiktok for violating terms of use. 

By early 2023, this challenge had a shocking 546.3 million views on Tiktok.

The Problem:

  • Several teenagers have heartbreakingly lost their lives participating in this challenge.
  • There is a risk of becoming addicted to chroming.
  • Cognitive impairment has been linked to huffing these dangerous chemicals.

The Game

Also known as the Blue Whale Challenge, this trend manipulates kids into performing increasingly more dangerous tasks over the course of fifty days. What starts off harmless, such as listening to a certain song, escalates into more dangerous tasks, such as carving a whale into your arm, with suicide as the final task. Players are chosen by an anonymous person and extorted with threats of disclosing highly personal information (doxing) or content being released online if they do not comply.

The Problem:

  • Many of the tasks include self-harm.
  • Some challenges restrict participants to be 10-15-years-old.
  • Points are earned for bullying. 
  • The way to “win” the game is to commit suicide.

The Benadryl Challenge

The challenge involves taking a large dose of Benadryl, an antihistamine commonly used to treat allergies, and posting videos of any hallucinations you experience.

The Problem:

  • Hallucinations are achieved, as well as drowsiness, blurred vision, increased heart rate and pressure, nausea, vomiting, and seizures.
  • Participants have fallen into comas.
  • Overdosing has led to deaths.

Dangerous TikTok Challenges

Next on the list are challenges that are unlikely to lead to death, but are still plenty dangerous.

freeze dried candy

Milk Crate Challenge

In this challenge, participants attempt to walk over a pyramid of stacked milk crates, typically arranged in a staircase-like structure. The goal is to walk from one side to the other without falling.

The Problem:

  • Most attempts end in falls, as the crates are unstable.
  • Hospitals have treated individuals with injuries ranging from broken bones to spinal cord injuries.
  • Although no deaths have been attributed to this challenge yet, it’s still a very real possibility — especially with the amount of head trauma cases reported as a result.

The Silhouette Challenge

This trend sees participants pose in front of a camera in a doorway or other well-lit area, usually wearing casual clothing. Then, they transition to a completely dark background, with some backlight to show only a silhouette of their bodies, at which point the participant has changed into a more revealing attire like lingerie, or even being completely nude.

The Problem:

  • Some have figured out how to edit the lighting in these videos, exposing the participant’s body and face.
  • Sharing images with revealing clothing can attract unwanted attention from online predators.
  • The challenge emphasizes body shape and appearance, which can contribute to unrealistic beauty standards and body image issues.

Beer Tanning

Many millennials remember lathering up with baby oil to achieve a perfect summer tan. Today, kids are being encouraged to pour beer on themselves prior to going out in the sun for a quick tan.

The Problem:

  • Doctors have warned that this trending tip doesn’t actually work.
  • Kids are skipping sunscreen, leading to sunburns.
  • Unprotected time in the sun increases the risk of skin cancer, and premature aging.

The Fire Challenge

In this challenge, participants spray hairspray onto a mirror, sometimes in a specific shape, and then ignite the spray.

The Problem:

  • Participants have been hospitalized with severe burns to their bodies as a result.
  • There’s a risk of the fire spreading, which can lead to property damage.
  • Inhaling the smoke from burning materials can cause respiratory issues, and potentially severe health problems.

The Nutmeg Challenge

TikTokers are encouraged to consume two tablespoons (about 28 grams) of nutmeg mixed with water to experience a hallucinogenic high similar to LSD.

The Problem:

  • Just 5 grams of nutmeg can disrupt normal brain function.
  • Toxic effects of nutmeg include hallucinations, nausea, vomiting, restlessness, and tachycardia (elevated heart rate).
  • Though rare, nutmeg poisoning has been linked to organ failure and death.

Dragon Breath

Food dipped in liquid nitrogen —particularly cereal— is consumed to create an effect similar to a dragon’s breath, with vapor coming out of the person’s mouth and nose.

The Problem:

  • At -320 degrees Fahrenheit, liquid nitrogen is extremely cold and can cause burns or even frostbite when coming into contact with skin.
  • Internal organs can be damaged by liquid nitrogen.
  • Inhaling the vapor can cause breathing difficulties, especially in those with asthma.
  • Recently, over 20 kids were harmed by this threat.

The Ick Challenge

Participants record themselves saying things that are turn offs or annoyances in their own relationships — known as the ick — in front of their partner or friend. Some parents have gone as far as listing their grievances about their young children in front of the child, such as “It gives me the ick that you’re so messy” and “It gives me the ick that I have to pay so much money for your activities.”

The Problem:

  • Most are funny and light-hearted, but others can affect someone’s self-esteem and cause hurt feelings.
  • Some relationships have been harmed as a result.
  • Pointing out negative attributes can incite bullying.

Illegal TikTok Trends

In addition to being dangerous, some TikTok challenges could lead to legal trouble.

child lying down with eyes closed and a bottle by their forehead

The Firetruck Challenge

A trend among tweens and teens, where a boy’s hand is likened to a fire truck and is placed on a girl’s lower thigh. The girl is instructed to say “green light” when the fire truck can keep moving further up her leg, and “red light” when the fire truck needs to stop. As the game progresses the girl may say “red light,” but is only then told that firetrucks don’t stop at red lights, as the hand keeps wandering.

The Problem:

  • This trend promotes the idea that a person’s boundaries can be ignored or overridden.
  • Physical contact that is escalated without consent can lead to legal ramifications.
  • The victim can face emotional trauma.

Tranq Challenge

This challenge consists of taking Clonazepam—a tranquilizing prescription drug used to treat seizures, panic attacks, and anxiety—and trying to stay awake. Drowsiness is a common side effect of Clonazepam. 

The Problem:

  • Consuming pharmaceuticals without a prescription is not only dangerous, it’s also illegal.
  • The list of possible side effects of Clonazepam includes mental, respiratory, and central nervous system changes.
  • Symptoms of overdose include loss of consciousness and mental changes.
  • 15 kids were recently hospitalized after participating in the challenge.

The Orbeez Challenge

For this challenge, TikTok users load soft water beads (Orbeez) into airsoft guns and shoot them at innocent bystanders. 

The Problem:

  • Although the beads are soft and squishy, they can cause injury. Some users go as far as freezing the beads, which makes the impact even more painful.
  • Airsoft guns can be mistaken for real guns and incite panic. 
  • Arrests have been made all across the country, with many authorities seeking charges of felony assault.
  • Frantic victims have defended themselves during what they believed was an active shooter incident, and deaths have occurred.

The Kia Challenge

How do you participate in the Kia Challenge? It’s simple enough: start a Kia or Hyundai brand car using a USB cable in the ignition in place of keys.

The Problem:

  • Cars are being vandalized.
  • Stolen cars are on the rise across the country. The challenge is believed to have originated in Milwaukee, where Kias and Hyundais account for 66% of all stolen vehicles. Kia and Hyundai are both owned by the same Korean parent company and have many similarities.
  • Most states consider auto theft a felony, punishable by prison time and hefty fines.
  • Multiple teenagers have been arrested and prosecuted in the past few months.

The Door Kick Challenge

This viral TikTok trend calls on users to kick someone’s door to the beat of Ke$ha’s “Die Young” song. 

The Problem:

  • Property damage has been reported.
  • Property owners have mistaken the prank for a break-in attempt, and arrests have been made.
  • There’s the possibility of a person attacking the prankster in fear of a real threat.

The Science Behind Risky Behavior

Areas of the human brain mature at different rates. 

The amygdala, a part of the brain believed to play a role in risk-taking and aggressive behavior, seems to mature in preadolescence

Teenage brains are wired much differently than ours. They are attention- and reward-seeking, and they’re impulsive by nature.

Jeremiah Dickerson, Child Psychiatrist at UVM Children’s Hospital

On the other hand, the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for planning and analyzing the consequences of our actions, does not mature until age 24.

Who’s at Risk?

Any child is at risk of participating in these harmful TikTok trends and putting themselves in harm’s way. While all teens are susceptible to accepting a dare out of curiosity, research shows that those with depression or other mental illnesses are at a higher risk. 

Teens tend to make rash decisions due to groupthink.

The FBI found that adolescents are more likely than adults to commit crimes in groups due to social pressure and seeking acceptance from their peers. Those who participate in risky behaviors do so because either they believe or know their friends are participating too. 

How to Search TikTok Videos

TikTok has a Discover page that parents can use to explore the wide variety of content in the TikTok community. 

The Discover page is found by clicking “Discover” at the bottom of the screen. 

Users can then use the search bar at the top to find “specific content or explore trending videos, hashtags, creators, and sponsored content located below.” 

What’s TikTok Doing to Keep Our Kids Safe?

After lawsuits and backlash, TikTok has taken some measures to protect against potentially dangerous challenges. While searching for any of the above challenges on the platform today won’t show results, these videos still exist on YouTube and search engines. 

When searching for a dangerous challenge, users are quickly met with a link to TikTok’s steps to stay safe. These steps encourage users to Stop, Think, Decide, and then Act before accepting a challenge.

Acting on dangerous challenges means not sharing it with others, not liking it, and reporting it to TikTok as inappropriate right away.

Although these steps can be helpful, they are not enough. 

Many lives have already been lost or forever changed by senseless challenges. Although new challenges pop up daily, TikTok relies on users to report them as inappropriate before taking action.

In other words, TikTok feels comfortable allowing users, 1/3 of which are children, to safeguard viewers’ experience.

What Can Parents Do?

Talk. Simple and short conversations provide kids with time to begin processing before they are faced with a choice.

Conversation Starters

  • Have you heard about the TikTok challenge where kids dare each other to eat Tide Pods? What do you think could happen?
  • Why is overdosing on medications dangerous?
  • Is it okay to break the law if a TikTok challenge requires it? Why or why not?

Even if our children don’t have access to TikTok, they will likely hear about it at school or from friends. Discussing and guiding our children through the dangers and possible outcomes of these challenges will teach them to think for themselves before they accept a challenge.

A powerful way to protect your kids from the dangers of TikTok is to avoid it altogether. Options like Gabb devices keep kids and parents safely connected, without any harmful social media apps.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!

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